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Two Sacramento families with downtown businesses will take over the space in the Firestone Building that houses California Pizza Kitchen. The restaurant, which opened in May 2009, will close this month, making way for the Firestone Public House in about six months.
The de Vere Whites, who own de Vere’s Irish Pub, and the Wong family, which owns Ma Jong’s, The Park Ultralounge, The Mix and Cafeteria 15L, are still working out the details of what the approximately 5,700-square-foot space at 1132 16th St. will hold, according to Henry de Vere White.
“The best way to say it is that a sports bar will probably be one aspect of it, and through the buildout, it is going to develop,” he said. “The Wong family has always done new and vibrant ideas.”
De Vere White said the details have yet to be worked out, and upcoming meetings will help hash it out. A sports bar will be one aspect of it, but it will likely be a place where people who aren’t avid sports fans can go for a conversation and a drink as well.
He said he does not think having another bar-centric business on the corner of 16th and L streets next door to his family’s pub will hurt his business.
“I think people who want to go to an Irish pub are going to go to an Irish pub for the experience,” he said. “I really think that (Firestone Public House) will be different enough, and it’ll complement the corner.”
Mason Wong of the Wong family was unavailable for comment.
Ken Fahn, one of the co-developers of the Firestone building where de Vere’s Irish Pub and the new business will be housed, said business never quite worked out for California Pizza Kitchen at that spot.
“We thought (California Pizza Kitchen) would be a nice addition to the downtown, and they have a strong kids’ menu and all that,” he said.
But over the past two years, the crowds never really materialized for the chain pizza restaurant, which also has a location at Arden Fair and opened a new space in Roseville last year.
“We’re going to assume that the Midtown and downtown crowd doesn’t go for chain restaurants,” Fahn said. “Local operators have a better handle on the idiosyncrasies of the market. They understand Sacramento better.”
He added that opening at the start of government furloughs also undoubtedly affected the level of business.
Mark Cordano, the other co-developer working with the Wurster family, which has owned the building since the 1940s, said he originally expected California Pizza Kitchen to be successful.
“We thought we’d get more kids downtown, but the families we expected to come from Land Park and East Sac tend to stay in their neighborhoods,” Cordano said.
He added that numerous other pizza restaurants opened as well, including Chicago Fire, Pizza Rock and Hot Italian, along with established pizza restaurants such as Paesanos, which presented a lot of competition.
Representatives from California Pizza Kitchen did not return calls Friday or Monday.
Fahn said he expects the new business to do well, adding that the other tenants in the building, including Mediterranean restaurant Petra Greek and Japanese steakhouse Sapporo Grill, are doing well.
“I think everybody that’s involved in this project are true Sacramentans,” Fahn said. “They have roots here. From a landlord’s perspective, we believe in operators who put their soul into the business.”
De Vere White said that “keeping it local” is going to be one of the keys for success.
“I think we’re going to put our own unique stance on it and create something everyone will really enjoy,” he said. “The overall sentiment is that we’re all just really excited to work together on this.”
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.