Last month, Con Pane, a restaurant and artisan bakery, reopened under the Cohn Restaurant Group umbrella. Separately, Liberty Public Market welcomed food places Rad Burger, Slurp and Tortas El Chapulin and retailer New Boheme Collective, all which opened around the same time. White Rice, a Filipino rice bowl concept, and Pure, an acai, smoothie and juice bar, are scheduled to open at Liberty Station early this year.
Liberty Station’s surge of new openings is an optimistic glimmer of hope as many local businesses are being forced to shutter their doors due to the coronavirus crisis, and it appears the neighborhood’s abundance of open-air promenades and parks is the mass appeal.
Joe Haeussler, executive vice president of Pendulum Property Partners, which oversees the retail leasing at Liberty Station, said general occupancy at the 125 acres commercial development is currently about 95%. He attests this to the amount of outdoor space available at the destination, allowing for outdoor dining and social distancing.
“The biggest thing is what’s needed in the new phase we are going into, which is people want to social distance and be outside,” he said. “We have a lot of outdoor open area. Beyond patios, we have large open-air promenades for people to enjoy the outdoors, exercise, go for walks – just do a lot of different things outside.”
Haeussler said he continues to receive phone calls daily from operators wanting to explore relocating or open a brand-new business at the desirable location.
David Cohn from Cohn Hospitality Group acquired Con Pane Rustic Bread & Café bakery last year. He said the acquisition of the beloved bakery was calculated, as it will not only continue to serve its loyal customer base, but also provide all baked goods for Cohn Restaurant Group’s food places moving forward.
“In the wake of COVID-19, the timing isn’t great,” he said, “but we love Con Pane, and it’s our goal to preserve what Catherine Perez, (founder and previous owner) has built over the last 20 years. We want to continue the good work she’s done in making this bakery a great Liberty Station asset.”
Matt Gordon is vice president of operations at Blue Bridge Hospitality, the Coronado-based hospitality company that co-developed and operates Liberty Public Market at Liberty Station. After the initial March shutdown, Gordon said the Market closed for about 12 days. When it reopened about two weeks later, he said only six vendors decided to return out of over 20. By mid-May, the majority had reopened, said Gordon, minus two that opted to permanently close their doors.
But as of late last year, the 25,000 square foot building, a converted naval complex, has been fully occupied, he said.
“Prior to COVID-19, Liberty Public Market was certainly an attractive destination, especially maybe for younger entrepreneurs simply because barriers to entry are not as great and the start-up cost is minimal,” he said. “During the pandemic, we’ve been allowed to remain open for the majority of it, minus the shutdown at the very beginning for a few weeks. While we are certainly nowhere near our pre-COVID numbers in terms of traffic, we do allow people that are sitting at home and want to get out so many options under one roof and acres of parkland that they can be out at safely and still live some version of life.”