LONG BEACH — Food trucks and outdoor dining experiences have been growing in numbers on the peninsula in recent years, and one new proposal could greatly expand their footprint into the heart of downtown Long Beach.
In the fall, longtime peninsula proprietor Russell Maize shared with the Long Beach City Council he and Weston Roberts’ vision to transform the dormant Rides at Long Beach lot into a hub for food, drink, music and entertainment.
Maize told councilors that the past few years since the rides closed have been spent determining the best use for the prime piece of real estate moving forward. Now, with funding lined up, he said they’re ready to get the ball rolling on the project.
Under the proposal shared with councilors, the lot would be overhauled to house a food court for food truck vendors, the bumper car building would be transformed into a bar and a space for live music, and the Stormin’ Norman’s mini golf course would be relocated from its present location to the east part of the lot to provide family-friendly entertainment.
“We like the idea of parents being able to sit, have a beer, have some food, and the kids playing putt-putt in a safe place for them,” Maize said. “I think our visitors — and especially our residents — [deserve to have] that kind of a place for them to be able to relax in the middle of town, in an area that’s nice and landscaped with all of the food [options].”
Food trucksOver the past three years, Maize and Roberts have visited cities in different states to learn about outdoor food courts, what works with them, and what doesn’t.
They said they have also taken feedback from locals and visitors into account, and that their proposal directly addresses many of those asks:
- A place that would stay open later in the evening;
- More affordable food options, including “new and innovative” selections;
- A place where kids and teenagers can hang out while being close to — yet still apart — from their parents;
- A venue that can be used for merchant or other local events, such as festivals or meetings.
Maize told councilors that they aren’t interested in offering common peninsula staples like clam chowder or fish and chips, saying they’d like to offer more diverse options. One food truck may be geared toward children, and another may be more health-focused.
“We would purchase [the food trucks] and we would create an opportunity for younger, innovative cuisine from younger people who are ready to start a business but don’t have the resources to do that,” Maize said, adding that they would likely be leasing out the trucks.
Later during that same meeting, councilors cleared a hurdle that was blocking the viability of the project when they revised the city’s zoning code to allow 12 food truck vendors — increased from eight — in the city’s Old Town zone, which runs from 11th Street S to 3rd Street N along the downtown core of Long Beach.
Councilor Patrick Reddy noted that of the eight food truck vendors that had been OK’d in the Old Town zone up to that point, only one was actually up and running. He asked Maize how he’d be able to overcome the issues that were tripping up others.
Maize said they have been in conversation with several food truck manufacturers, and that he does not see there being a problem in the trucks being procured.
Bumper car buildingAside from the addition of the food court itself, the transformation of the bumper car building on the lot is a key aspect of the current proposal.
Along with work and renovations being done to the entirety of the lot, that building would be remodeled and converted into a bar with space for indoor, covered dining, as well as house a stage for live music and other entertainment.
“We’re particularly excited about being able to bring some live music at night, as a place to go,” Maize said. “I mean, where do you take your husband, your wife, your visiting kids from out of town?”
To give the building a fresh look and maintain continuity with the upgrades and renovations of other downtown businesses in recent years, the building would be re-sided. The garage doors on the building’s north side would be expanded to create an “indoor-outdoor feel” that connects the outdoor food court with the warm, indoor environment. The north part of the building would also be extended using metal pergola to provide covered outdoor dining, with professional lighting being installed both indoors and outdoors.
To enable the bar to stay open beyond the food truck hours, the building would be outfitted with a small kitchen. Individual seating for families would also be included. Pointing to the newly completed renovations at Castaways, Maize said it’s an example of the quality of work that can be expected for this project.
Maize said they did not yet know how late they may be open until, adding that they would conduct more community outreach before landing on hours. He noted that the amusement park, which they heavily invested in, was subject to noise complaints and was one of the reasons why the conditional use permit granted by the city was not extended.
“That’s something we have to look at and really understand, to make sure that we’re operating correctly within the community,” Maize said. “We’re not talking about a 4 a.m. rage. We’re talking about us having a local country music star there until 12 at night, having a nice evening.”