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Seaport Village getting two new eateries, including a distillery

Michael Skubic, founder of Old Harbor Distilling Co.
(Courtesy of Old Harbor Distilling Co.)

With the two new venues approved by the Port of San Diego, the reinvigorated Seaport Village is now 90 percent leased as it awaits a major redevelopment still several years off

Seaport Village is doubling down on its food and beverage offerings, with plans for a new Mediterranean restaurant and a combination seafood eatery and distillery specializing in a variety of unique spirits made on premises.

The owner of the Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant, which has operated in Clairemont Mesa for 28 years, will develop a full-service restaurant called Zytoun Gourmet Mediterranean that will be located along the boardwalk on the west side of the shopping center. The 1,380-square-foot space will include an outdoor, wrap-around patio that will offer views of San Diego Bay.

Old Harbor Distilling Company, now operating a craft distillery in East Village, plans to create a combination distillery and fast-casual seafood eatery, with a bar for spirit tastings and cocktails. The new business, which will occupy 843 square feet, will be Old Harbor founder Michael Skubic’s first venue open to the general public. It will be located within what is known as the Lighthouse District in the eastern part of the center near San Pasqual Winery and Spill the Beans Coffee.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Skubic, “I’m a big fan of sailing and surfing, so being able to look at the water from where we’re eating, that will be cool, and I’ve always wanted to open up a restaurant, but that had never been my strong suit so it’s good to find a couple of guys to help with the restaurants.”

Skubic said he will be turning over operation of the restaurant portion of Old Harbor to Roasted and Toasted Management, which runs the Spill the Beans cafe.

Development of the two dining venues can move forward, now that San Diego port commissioners approved leases with the operators. In a hearing last week, the commissioners granted 10-year leases to both operators and as part of those agreements allocated nearly $669,000 to help cover development costs.

Old Harbor, which was granted an option for a five-year extension of its 10-year lease, will get $375,000, while Aladdin was allocated $293,864. Skubic said ideally, he’d like to be open by the end of the year. He estimates that the rehab of his space, which has been vacant for nearly three years, will cost him $780,000.

One idea he’s toying with is offering spirit gin-making classes where customers could distill their own gin and it could be known generically as Seaport Gin. But there is an approval process that has to go through the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau so he’s not sure yet whether the classes will be possible. Among the individual spirits it now produces are Barrelflag Navy Strength Rum, San Miguel Southwestern Gin, and Ampersand Cold Pressed Coffee Liqueur.

Hamdi AbuKhalaf, owner of Aladdin, said he expects to have his Seaport Village space ready by next March and estimates that development costs will be at least $650,000.

Aladdin restaurant in Clairemont Mesa
(Courtesy of Aladdin Cafe)

“I’ve always liked Seaport Village and I think it needs a new spirit,” he said of his decision to move into the center. “It’s a destination, whether it’s for people coming to the convention center, the tourists, even the locals. So it’s a beautiful focal point and I thought it would be a good move.”

The new tenants are part of an ongoing effort by the Port of San Diego to not only fill vacancies in Seaport Village but also update the tenant mix with shops and dining outlets that will appeal to both tourists and locals.

With Old Harbor and Zytoun, Seaport Village now has filled 63 of its 71 available spaces. Of those tenants, 20 are food and beverage establishments, the port said.

“Our more than $2 million investment in enhancing and elevating the Seaport Village experience continues to pay off with the addition of Zytoun Gourmet Mediterranean and Old Harbor Distilling Company,” said Michael Zucchet, who chairs the board of Port Commissioners. “Seaport Village is a San Diego hotspot. We hope everyone gets a chance to visit soon — and keeps coming back!”

The ongoing revival of Seaport comes amid planning for a mammoth redevelopment of the four-decade-old waterfront center. The $2 billion plan, which encompass a far larger area of 70 acres, is still years off from a groundbreaking. The leases with the new tenants, though, take into consideration a possible disruption of their businesses. Each of the operators would be entitled to termination fees amounting to tens of thousands of dollars beginning in year six of their leases.

Over the course of 10 years, the port expects that the two eateries together will generate $2.2 million in lease revenue.

In addition to Zytoun and Old Harbor, there are a number of other new businesses still to come, among them:

  • Tuk Tuk Eatery, an Asian-themed fast-casual venue featuring BBQ bowls and Bao bar (anticipated opening summer 2021).
  • Louisiana Charlie’s, a Southern-style restaurant offering barbecue and Cajun-style food with a Mardi Gras-themed atmosphere (anticipated opening fall 2021).
  • Malibu Farm, which, in addition to full-service dining, will feature an ice cream and espresso bar and a home goods store (anticipated opening summer 2022).

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