The new food court in downtown National City is buzzing any day of the week. People sip coffee while surfing their laptops in the morning, coworkers talk about the day over lunch, and families knit bread across long wooden tables for dinner.
Since opening late last year, Market on 8th has turned a previously destroyed corner into a community meeting space. The owners now want to add to that experience with live entertainment and new alcohol sales.
Many residents are excited about the additions. Others worry that current challenges, such as finding street parking, will worsen.
To make these business changes, Joel Tubao, owner and manager of the Market with his family, requested permission from the city.
He received it last week when the City Council unanimously supported his proposals with certain conditions. The council’s vote came after hearing about three dozen public comments with conflicting opinions.
“The (Market), in general, has been a real catalyst for 8th Street, through our downtown,” said Vice Mayor Marcus Bush. “This space has really become a public gathering space and a community space.”
Council members approved amendments to the company’s conditional use permit, allowing live performances and extended hours of operation at the venue, which is located at 8.th Street and Avenue A.
The changes mean the food hall can now host live entertainment such as bands, karaoke or DJs from 8am to 1am daily and sell craft beer and wine until midnight. Before the approval, the business could only have a solo entertainer and sell beer from Novo Brazil, the only beer vendor in the food court, until 10 p.m. The market may also add a bar in the enclosed back yard and allow alcohol consumption in the front yard. , which is surrounded by a low-level metal fence, and sells alcohol to take away.
Some residents fear the extended operating hours and to-go alcohol sales are “a recipe for trouble,” Bill McColl said.
Others were concerned about potential noise disturbances and allowing drinking in the front yard. Tubao said he doesn’t want to turn his establishment into a nightclub or a place for “a bunch of chocolates to come in and just party and drink a lot.”
“What we want to do is add more value to the community. You can sit there with a nice glass of wine or craft beer and enjoy the community,” he said, adding that he envisions jazz bands sometimes, as well host yoga in the courtyard and offer kombucha.
Dominic Hernandez, chef of one of the food hall’s 12 vendors, said offering a venue for open mic nights would enhance the hall as a gathering space for people of varied interests and backgrounds.
Councilor Ron Morrison made several suggestions, which the rest of the council approved. He called for alcohol sales to cease at midnight instead of 1 a.m. and to limit carry-out beer to four-packs of 16-ounce cans.
One of the most pressing concerns for several residents, business owners and some council members was parking. Since the opening of the Market, street parking on and around Avenue A has been a challenge, as the dining room and several neighboring establishments do not have parking.
David Ramos, who lives on Avenue A near the diner, said he opposed the permit changes because the later hours will mean more customers and less parking.
“I come home and the first thing I have to do is wait in front of my house just to get a parking space and so do all my neighbors,” he said.
Although the market is not required to provide parking for customers, Tubao said it has been talking with Southwestern College about allowing customers to park in its parking complex at National City Boulevard and 8.th Street.
Morrison stressed the need for more parking or better ways to move traffic if longer business hours mean customers stay longer at the facility. He suggested adding metered parking to the area. The city is currently developing a parking management plan and pilot program that would add meters to several downtown streets.
Bush said “parking is definitely going to be a challenge” where density is increasing, such as downtown with several new small businesses and Parco, a 127-unit mixed-use commercial and residential building located in across the street from the dining room.
Jose Rivas, who works at the Market and lives on Avenue A, said recent growth in his neighborhood and the diner as an anchor has brought life back to what was once “a ghost town.”