Another fine dining seafood restaurant will take the place of the longtime Cohn Restaurant Group venue by early next year
Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, a well-known presence in the Gaslamp Quarter for more than two decades, closed abruptly following years-long negotiations with the landlord to remain in the prime downtown location.
Among the first of the now more than two dozen restaurants opened by the Cohn Restaurant Group, Blue Point was a fine dining seafood and oyster bar that outlived many of the eateries that have come and gone as the historic Gaslamp Quarter evolved into more of an entertainment and late-night destination.
Co-owner David Cohn, who described the restaurant as a timeless homage to the classic San Francisco-style seafood house, said Monday he was saddened by last week’s sudden shuttering of the restaurant.
“It is heartbreaking because it’s one of our first restaurants and we loved being in the center of the Gaslamp,” said Cohn, whose intent was to either “casualize” Blue Point or try a completely different concept at the Fifth Avenue and Market Street location. “We loved the building, and it was one of our first designs we did from scratch.”
Cohn said he initiated negotiations on a new lease seven years ago, recognizing that his existing lease would expire in 2019. Early on, he said, it appeared that the landlord had other ideas for the Blue Point space that did not include a restaurant, although that changed over time.
“For seven years up until Nov. 20, we tried to renegotiate and just weren’t successful,” Cohn said, unwilling to elaborate further on why an agreement could not be reached. While he felt a fine dining concept in the Gaslamp area didn’t make sense any longer, he felt the location was unrivaled in the district, where his restaurant group has three other food and beverage venues.
Like Cohn, the management company that has long handled tenant leases for the Fifth Avenue building, was unwilling to divulge why the two parties were unable to come to terms. Howard Greenberg, president of Trilogy Real Estate Management Company, the property manager, said the building that houses Blue Point and a number of other tenants had been under a 30-year ground lease until Nov. 30, when control reverted to the original owners.
The trio of real estate investors who originated the master lease invested money in upgrading the building and over time brought a variety of new uses to fill the 100,000-square-foot space, Greenberg explained. All existing tenants, including a hostel, cigar shop, sushi restaurant, loft apartments and a residential hotel, have renewed their leases — except for Blue Point.
“All of the leases we had in the building ended Nov. 30, so it was up to the residual owner to renew or not renew leases,” Greenberg said. “Sure, we’re sad to see Blue Point go, and we would have loved to have seen it continue but as David said, that wasn’t a viable concept any longer.”
Plans are now afoot for another upscale seafood spot to take Blue Point’s space, operated by longtime restaurateurs whose portfolio includes a number of downtown eateries. Vincenzo Lo Verso and partner Alessandro Minutella plan to open their new seafood-centric restaurant by January, Lo Verso said Monday. No name has been chosen yet, but Lo Verso said they plan to spend about $750,000 on the new dining venue.
Among the nine restaurants the duo already operate are the Greystone steakhouse, Osteria Panevino, Osetra Seafood and Steaks, all on Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp, plus three Farmer’s Table locations, including one in Little Italy. Lo Verso said he is comfortable with another upscale restaurant going into the Blue Point spot “because I make a lot of money with fine dining” in the Gaslamp Quarter.”