Former Champion-Cain restaurant in Liberty Station gets a new owner and design

The former Fireside by the Patio in Liberty Station
Patio dining was a key feature of the former Fireside by the Patio space that The Presley will be occupying. Similarly, the new restaurant will take advantage of ample outdoor space to accommodate its diners when it opens in early July.
(Courtesy photo)

The new Presley restaurant, scheduled to debut early next month, will take over the former Fireside by the Patio space, focusing largely on outdoor dining


Even as longstanding restaurants struggle to make their post-COVID comeback, new eateries are still moving forward with grand openings, the latest among them, The Presley, which will debut next month in Liberty Station.

A new concept from prolific restaurateur and nightlife operator Ty Hauter of Good Time Design, The Presley is actually a reinvention of a former Gina Champion-Cain restaurant — Fireside by the Patio — that operated within Liberty Station for about four years before being shut down along with a number of other dining venues operated by the once high-profile businesswoman.

Like its predecessor, The Presley will be a largely outdoor venue, a good fit for the current pandemic, when leisure time spent outside feels safer and more healthful. The former Fireside, a sort of elevated backyard BBQ-style eatery, was among about a dozen Champion-Cain dining establishments that were closed less than a month after the Securities and Exchange Commission last year accused her and her investment company of operating a $300 million scheme that the agency says defrauded dozens of investors.

Closing around the same time was The Patio on Goldfinch in Mission Hills, another Champion-Cain venue that is slated to be reimagined by a new owner. Merritte Powell, who owns the 12-year-old La Puerta restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter, plans to open a second location in the nearly 4,000-square-foot Mission Hills Patio space sometime before the end of the year.

The Presley, which is expected to open by as early as July 8, encompasses 3,400 square feet of dine-in space, the vast majority of that — 2,100 square feet — devoted to outdoor dining space. It also will have three separate bars, two of which are located outdoors.

With social distancing guidelines in place, The Presley should be able to accommodate a total of 200 diners — about 50 percent of what would be allowed under normal pre-pandemic conditions. Between the restaurant’s two patio areas, about 160 people will be able to be seated outside, according to Good Time Design marketing director Christina Alderman.

The outdoor emphasis is in keeping with plans this week by Liberty station to add 108 tables, with four seats each, around the project’s commercial areas, from Trader Joe’s to the public market, allowing people to purchase takeout food from the various restaurants and still dine out. They are being situated so that the tables will be socially distanced from one another.

In order to better capitalize on The Presley’s expansive patio space, Hauter’s group made some design changes in hopes of making it even more inviting.

“We wanted the outdoor space to feel a little more casual to play into the ‘adult campground’ piece of the brand, so we came in with custom built tables and live edge swinging benches as well as new plant life throughout and fire pit elements coming soon,” Hauter said in an email. The Presley is named after his 7-year-old daughter. “We also added some turf to make the areas a little more family-friendly and updated and refinished the bars.”

Inside, Good Time Design also made a few changes, including moving the bar back to allow for increased dining space and constructing raised booths along the side. In all, Hauter said he invested about $150,000 on the new restaurant, which includes purchasing some of the Patio’s kitchen equipment and furnishings. He also had to buy a new liquor license.

The planned menu, created by Executive Chef Todd Nash, will include classic American fare, from lobster roll sliders and grilled pork prime rib to a variety of flatbreads, sandwiches and salads. The cocktail selections will include some whimsical touches like a Dole Whip mimosa and lavender gin slushy.

Good Time Design already has an expansive hospitality portfolio, including The Blind Burro, Bub’s at the Ballpark, and its Moonshine country bar venues in East Village and Pacific Beach.

Liberty Station is familiar territory for Hauter, who until last year, had operated for five years The Loma Club, a nine-hole golf course and bar and grill. While the former Fireside restaurant had its financial ups and downs during its tenure at Liberty Station, that did not diminish Hauter’s enthusiasm for the space, he said.

“I’ve always admired the community in Liberty Station and after selling The Loma Club, we were sad to leave it,” he said. “When this opportunity presented itself, it was a no brainer for us. In my opinion, the location wasn’t the issue (for Fireside) — it’s surrounded by fun and exciting businesses with lots of energy and foot traffic.”

Pendulum Property Partners, which is the major commercial leaseholder at Liberty Station, in partnership with The Seligman Group, worked with the Champion-Cain receivership to eventually regain possession of the Fireside space and re-rent it. Joe Haussler, Executive Vice President of Pendulum, said he had a lot of interest in the location. He also acknowledged past challenges with the Patio operation as the management team underwent changes and tinkered with the vision, he said.

“There was a change in the vision, including the menu,” Haussler said. “Gina had outdoor grills custom made for the restaurant and later on they were used as storage. I’m very familiar with Ty and his businesses. He’s just a quality operator, someone we wanted at Liberty Station so it was a real win-win.”

He said he expects that the added outdoor seating being installed at Liberty Station will draw more visitors to the area and in turn help boost business at the roughly 30 restaurants and Liberty Public Market that his leasehold encompasses.

“One benefit of Liberty Station is we’re a perfect place to social distance, with all of our expansive courtyards and promenades,” Haussler said. “The new outdoor seating will be a great addition and will probably become permanent. We will have porter service (to clean the tables), and people can get their takeout food and enjoy the outdoors.”