Lucy Neely, a Portola Valley resident and an Alpine Inn enthusiast, told The Almanac recently that she is seeking investors with the aim of raising enough money to buy the inn.
To that end, she has registered "Portola Valley Community Roadhouse, LLC" as a California corporation. A search of records at the Secretary of State's office confirms registration of the corporation on April 9.
"Our intention is to create an inclusive, welcoming restaurant that maintains the beloved character of a 156-year-old drinking establishment," she said in a statement. "We plan to serve delicious food and drink and offer a comfortable and inspirational space that functions as a vibrant community gathering place."
Neely said she would be announcing her plans on PV Forum, the online gathering place for residents of Portola Valley and nearby unincorporated communities.
She has arranged three informational meetings to be held in the meeting room in the town's public library at 765 Portola Road. They are set for:
• Tuesday, May 22, at 11 a.m.
• Tuesday, May 22, at 6 p.m.
• Wednesday, May 23, at 6 p.m.
Asked for an estimate on her fundraising target, Neely said she needs to first determine how much money might be raised. The target "is definitely in the millions," she said.
Shares will start at $10,000 each, she said. The owners will elect a board to run the restaurant in collaboration with professional management.
For more information, write to her at [email protected] or call 650-206-3038.
'Hue and cry'
Significantly, the Alpine Inn is registered as both a state and a federal landmark. In Portola Valley's general plan, in the chapter on historic resources, the inn is labeled as a structure to be preserved.
A bronze tablet embedded in a boulder outside the inn notes that the building dates from the 1850s, that it was built by one Felix Buelna, and that it served "as a gambling retreat and meeting place for Mexican-Californios."
"It was strategically located on the earliest trail used both by rancheros and American settlers crossing the peninsula to the coast," the tablet continues. "Acquired by an American in 1868, it has continued to serve under various names as a roadhouse and saloon."
Any proposals for altering or remodeling the building would have to take into consideration its history, Town Historian Nancy Lund said. The Town Council might even have to weigh in, she added.
Neely said she's spent months talking with people and looking into who the potential buyers might be and concluded that she "didn't have confidence in any of them."
Lund did not dismiss the possibility of someone with huge resources buying it, proposing changes that are unacceptable to the town, and taking the town to court.
"How much would the people be willing to pay?" Lund asked. "I hear about deep-pocket people taking things. ... I hope a consortium decides to buy it and keep it as it is" along with seismic improvements, she said.
"I think there would be a hue and cry if it became something other than a restaurant," she said. "My guess is that people wouldn't mind if they had a slightly altered menu."
Alexander said the family is "assuming it would go back to the way it used to be," referring to the menu. Rectangular hamburgers might make a comeback, she said, along with sourdough buns and regular hot dogs. "The fries were absolutely fantastic," she said. "Now they're just ordinary fries. ... Now it's just any old place."
"It's such a wonderful social resource," Neely said. The goal would be "just taking what's great about it and bringing that to the fore and improving it," creating "a community-driven restaurant for Portola Valley and the surrounding community," she said.
Neely is the daughter of Portola Valley residents Dr. Kirk Neely and Holly Myers. She has a bachelor's degree in economics from Bates College and is a manager for the family's wine business.
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