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Pondering the Possibilities About the Smokehouse Venue

One familiar restaurant in San Rafael is looking for a new home, so why not the vacancy recently created at Novato's Vintage Oaks shopping center?

Maybe this is a crazy idea, but there's no sense in holding back: What if the famed restaurant relocated to the location at shopping center in Novato?

You might have heard that the Seafood Peddler, an institution along the San Rafael waterfront, to make room for the new , an operation with the backing of Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. A previous attempt to open Terrapin Crossroads in Fairfax fell through after aggressive opposition from neighbors.

The Smokehouse ownership after just seven months of operation. About $2.3 million was poured into the 9,100-square-foot former Shane Co. jewelers building just off Vintage Way. It had a 100-seat dining room and 70-seat outdoor patio plus a small concert lounge that seats about 110. It was a gorgeous place and there was tons of free parking.

as to why the Smokehouse was shuttered, but the gossip is quickly turning toward the future and what might move in.

Seafood Peddler General Manager Richard Mayfield said Thursday that he can't reveal any information about where the restaurant might relocate. It could be that the Smokehouse building is too small for the Peddler if its management seeks to attract large groups for banquets and special events. The Peddler featured not only enclosed waterfront dining but also a 55-seat room, a 125-seat room and the 350-seat Palm Ballroom. That place dwarfs the Smokehouse location, but maybe the Peddler is seeking to downsize in this economy like so many other businesses.

But think about it: Isn't Novato in desperate need of an eatery whose "sole" focus is on seafood?

joan January 06, 2012 at 02:37 PM
We need a good fresh seafood restaurant
Paula Neese January 06, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Love to see a Melting Pot in Novato. The best "Celebration" restaurant that's for sure. Family friendly, and the best atmosphere around. Who doesn't like a fun fondue experience? Pricey but if you eat @ the bar the same experience can be quite affordable.
Alan Monasch January 06, 2012 at 02:56 PM
As a member of the music community, I can't say enough about how important that venue was to the music scene, to music, in Novato. As a music venue, the music room is sized right, and it was built as a music room and it works well technically and operationally. In the short time it was open, I saw so much good music there! I think that the current problem for the music side of that venue is that It has such a large, upscale restaurant that needs to do well so that even if the music is supporting itself, which it is doing, it does not have to carry the restaurant. And a restaurant is a tough shot at best in these economic times. Would a higher-volume, less upscale restaurant do better here? I very much want this to reopen and be a place musicians can continue to be proud and delighted to play for eager audiences.
Ray Shanahan January 06, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I agree with seafood restaurant idea. Novato needs a good seafood restaurant! Having to travel to San Rafael or Kentfield ( Pacific Cafe) for fish sometimes stops you. The Seafood Peddler would definitely work there. Their menu also included non-seafood items and they provided music.
Dave January 06, 2012 at 03:16 PM
A fresh seafood or vegetarian restaurant or dinner club along the line of Beach Blanket Babylon. Live Theater etc
Cristiann Milano January 06, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I have been saying it for years...Seafood! I miss the Octopus. Something like the Seafood Peddler (but better?). Phil Lesh just bought the Peddler...maybe he's interested?. I also think to work in Novato, it has to be a little more "family friendly."
c.richards January 06, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Ah yes. Nothing says seafood like landfill .MUCH better then a place right on the water with boats all around. Face it , Al sold out but how can ya blame him ?
Kelly Ground January 06, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I agree. Music/Cabaret/ perhaps small play productions (revues). Perhaps a sub-division might make it possible as a separate venue. Comedy Clubs I'm sorry, no interest over saturated. Cheap to do, yes, but we owe a bit more our artists in marin who have few venues to work in. Too bad each development the city gets involved in they don't mandate a community performance space. Short sighted. The Haan corp who originally developed the Village also developed the Horton Plaza development in San Diego that houses the San Diego Repertory Theatre. But the city insisted on the inclusion.
Lou Judson January 06, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Someone should finance the location as a small, economical natural restaurant and lease the music hall to Murphy Productions, who got bumped out of Larkspur and later Mill Valley by Sweetwater before they went bust, and now by Lesh when they had a good thing going in the Palm. There is plenty of room in Marin for locally based music venues and events that may not have the financial clout of an old Dead guy! These folx do good things, they deserve a showplace. Or maybe Lesh can offer them a monthly night to produce in the turtle hall? That would be generous... <http://murphyproductions.com/html/about.htm> Lou
Novatan January 06, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I think that would be a good spot for a TGI Fridays type of place. People going into a breezy strip mall aren't looking for comedy clubs, music venues and high-end restaurants. They want to do their shopping, grab a quick meal and go home.
Tony Elshout January 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM
This place has bad karma, everything business that has gone in has failed. I feel sorry for the landlord who invested about $2,000,000 in the Southern Pacific Smokehouse. All of the assets consisting of furniture, fixtures and equipment will be sold at auction Monday morning, January 9 and the landlord will be lucky to get 10 cents on the dollar. Probably the best solution would be to tear down the building and make a small park. I believe the site must have been old indian burial ground and if left as a park good mojo will return to Vintage Oaks
Baxter January 06, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Even an Applebee's or Chili's could work at the Smokehouse location. Although, I would still like to see a resonably priced steakhouse such as Cattlemens, similar to Petaluma. Throw some hay on the bar-room floor and have country western dancing once a week, salsa the next, etc. As far as Seafood Peddler, it still is one of the best seafood restaurants in Marin.They are looking for new digs in San Rafael or Sausalito because I believe they have their own fishing boats and need to be close to the water. And, yes, it would be really nice if Novato opened up a great seafood restaurant where the fish is so fresh it's still swimming on the plate.
honu January 06, 2012 at 06:04 PM
This is much ado about nothing. I've seen so many good restaurants including good seafood restaurants come and go. Novatans don't support these restaurants. Right now Hilltop 1892 serves good seafood. Why doesn't anyone even mention it? The Seafood Peddler would be so out of place in a shopping center instead by the waterfront. So why are you so obsessed with filling a recently vacated building when Pini's Hardware bldg. on Grant stands empty after so many years? Get your heads together and keep your feet on the ground. How about putting a book store in there. Do you realize that in order to buy a new book in a real book store, Novatans have to travel to Corte Madera or Petaluma? Here's another suggestion. There is no Apple Store between Corte Madera and Santa Rosa. Their store in Corte Madera is the busiest in the nation. Let's apply pressure to Apple to open a store here.
MJC January 06, 2012 at 07:00 PM
I agree with the Cattlemens idea. When I lived in livermore there was one there and people that travel will pull off the freeway for a cattlemens. It is a familiar name for people everywhere. Plus I really like their steaks! I wish this place did more advertising for their music and concentrated on that end a little more. I tried to go there twice and both times were private parties. I know that is only 2 times, but I never saw ads for music that I would go to ( someone in their 30's ) The bar area was nicely set up for some good shows too! But sadly just never took off the ground.
Jeffrey Schaub January 06, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I think having the Seafood Peddler move there is an outstanding idea.
Debbie Hanks January 06, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Novato needs more family-friendly restaurants with quality food and good service- NOT another chain restaurant. Utilizing the existing music venue in the Smokehouse building makes sense (excellent sound system). Music adds culture and brings entertainment options to our city, while supporting the growing interest in the arts among our youth. Excellent food + great music + quality service + welcoming atmosphere = good idea. It will be interesting to see what lands in the central Vintage Oaks spot.
Born & raised January 06, 2012 at 08:59 PM
It won't be a great location for music after the auction. Just a vacant shell.
Judy Loringq January 06, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I agree - Seafood Peddler would be a good choice for Novato. Or, a restaurant featuring local, seasonal and organic foods. Great to have options to the fast food or other uninspired restaurants in Novato.
Erma Murphy January 06, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I had the very same idea and presented it to Richard at the SFP too. Seems a natural!
Erma Murphy January 06, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Thanks for the suggestion and comments Lou. Murphy Produticons is looking for a venue. This one may be too small but who knows what the future hold - everything is topsy turvy!
Naj January 06, 2012 at 11:45 PM
The old Pini Hardware building doesn't stand empty because no one wants to go in there. The reason is the building is out of code and the ground under the building is adobe...not stable enough with today's building standards and mix that with the creek somewhere below. So it's not about the building being empty as much as it's not legal.
Robert J. Cleek January 07, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Vintage Oaks had a seafood restaurant, Red Lobster, better known as "The House of Fish Sticks." You'd think the corporate big wigs that make such decisions would realize Novato isn't the place for chain restaurants in shopping malls. Fact is, Novato is a lousey place for any sort of restaurant other than a small neighborhood place because Novato doesn't have the population base that eats out enough to support a large, expensive, high volume restaurant. Such operations must rely on a much larger geographical market in which people will drive the distance to go to that restaurant. Novato is geographically disadvantaged in that regard because nobody in Southern Marin or Southern Sonoma, which have more than their share of high end dining and music venues, is going to drive to Novato when there are many other options up and down the road before they ever get here. It's sad to see anyone's business venture fail, but what was SP thinking? "Build it and they will come?" Did they think at their price point that they could draw business from Cattlemen's or the Mystic Theater twenty minutes up the road? The SP operators seem to have been blinded by the "Marin Mystique." Novatans don't fit that mold (thank goodness!). They are practical people who know the value of their money. They want honest food at honest prices, not a lot of sizzle and no steak. The eateries that offer that prosper here. The rest don't. What we really need is a "Novato Joe's!"
Christine January 07, 2012 at 12:16 AM
I think the failures had to do with Risky business not Karma. Maybe the fourth time around will be a CHARM. I think it's a beautiful building and a restaurant like Outback would probably do well. Whatever goes in there, I wish them much success!
CLKO January 07, 2012 at 05:56 AM
It used to be Olive Garden. Why can't Novato sustain a good, family friendly, moderately priced restaurant? I hate having to drive all the way to Rohnert Park to get my Olive Garden fix!
Lou Judson January 07, 2012 at 02:48 PM
So the Pini building is uninhabitable? Can the owenrs tear it down and make a park for the people of the town?
Naj January 07, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I know that the people who built the Trader Joe's complex were originally planning on building a mini mall in that building. What kind of mini mall I'm not exactly sure, but when they found out about all the problems that's when everything stopped. I thought the same as you, put a small park there. Beyond that, that's all I really know. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful than that.
Craig Belfor January 07, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Seafood sounds good. The location is perfect. With over 600 foreclosures in Novato now, the only thing that's not under water is the lagoon at Bahia.
Born & raised January 10, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Buh-dump-bump. Craig Belfor, ladies and gentlemen, he'll be here all week, and don't forget to tip your waitress. Goodnight!

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