Operators of the new high-end Lexington House restaurant that's proposed for on North Santa Cruz Avenue were ecstatic Tuesday evening after the Los Gatos Town Council unanimously approved their conditional-use permit.
The Council's vote came after more than 20 speakers urged its approval and despite the Los Gatos Planning Commission recommending denial on Aug. 8 citing concerns over the conversion of a retail space into a restaurant, which is discouraged by a town ordinance.
The building, owned by Los Gatos Investments, LLC, or the Farwell Family, is located at 40 No. Santa Cruz Ave. and four of its five partitions have been rented by local retailers.
Business partners Stephen Shelton and James Marino were delighted with the Council's vote giving them permission to operate a 22-seat, 1,687 square-foot restaurant with outdoor accommodations and full alcohol service on property located in the town's central business district commercial zone.
Shelton is a highly regarded mixologist who works at Lexington House will be a certified green business serving high-end food using locally grown ingredients and high-quality regional products, he said.
Until last year, the space was occupied by Domus for nearly 40 years and prior to Domus' occupancy, the corner had housed Steamer's Grill.
The restaurant, which will be located in Suite A, will be open for business 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday through Thursday; midnight Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday.
Supporters told the Council the town is literally "craving" the type of restaurant that Shelton and Marino are proposing and will fit right in with the other eateries in town that have made Los Gatos a destination spot for foodies. Marino said the new restaurant will help the town compete with other popular downtown destinations in Campbell and Willow Glen.
The new restaurant will offer a sophisticated yet comfortable and inviting place to enjoy fine food and handcrafted inspired drinks, said Mitchell and Genevieve Wyman in a letter of support for the new venture. "It would add a new exciting taste to our palate and another reason to stay downtown when planning an evening out," they wrote.
Shelton argued the ratio of four retail spaces to one restaurant space was adequate, that the new restaurant would fill a void in fine dining establishments downtown with only Forbes Mill and Palacio currently offering such food and would offer outdoor seating in the downtown corridor, which is encouraged by town ordinance.
Jason Farwell, a spokesman for Los Gatos Investments, LLC, said the building's owners had intentionally created extra retail spaces by dividing the property into five suites, with just one being rented to a restaurant.
Farwell also cited the expansion of Gardino's into retail space and Restaurant James Randall also doing the same.
"Are there too many restaurants and food uses in downtown?" Farwell asked. "Well, one can certainly make the argument that there [are] ... but in the central business district there aren't a lot of fine dining establishments on North Santa Cruz Avenue.
"This particular stretch of North Santa Cruz Avenue is ground zero for the heart of downtown and this location in particular ... is perfectly suited for another restaurant," he noted, adding that the location even has the grease trap and the right plumbing from the original Steamer's that operated there.