New restaurant going at old Lyons
The former Lyons Restaurant building will soon have a new restaurant. It’s been a long time coming, both for the building and for the new tenant, Steven Brandt.
Brandt, a longtime South Shore resident and restaurateur, plans to open the Shoreline Cafe by mid-September as a new family restaurant. That’s nine months and all of summer after the South Lake Tahoe Lyons closed its doors due to the corporation’s bankruptcy.
Brandt considers that location on U.S. Highway 50 and Fremont Avenue, just across the highway from El Dorado Beach, the prime location in the city. He said he’s has been trying to secure it all year.
At the time Lyons moved out, Brandt had been looking for an investment, he said.
“(The location) screamed out to me,” he said. “This is the best location in town, as far as I’m concerned.”
Brandt has been a South Shore resident since 1972 and received his formal restaurant training in the Sage Room at Harveys Resort & Casino. He’s worked for Carrow’s Restaurant since 1981, most recently as the district supervisor.
“I miss running a restaurant directly,” he said. “I’ve been a supervisor, managing others running the restaurant. I’m one of the people who likes to stand at the door and I want to know what people think.”
Brandt had hoped to be standing at the door welcoming guests in May. June was the latest he wanted to wait to take advantage of the profitable summer months.
But first he had to win over the lessee, the Sarah Lee Corporation, and the property owner, International Land Group, and that took time.
Working with a corporation “puts entrepreneurs at a disadvantage,” he said, because corporations tend to be slow to act and then they act conservatively.
“This is a very small matter for these companies. They weren’t motivated like I was.”
As summer arrived, Brandt realized he couldn’t make his goal and he considered dropping his effort.
That is, until he again looked out on Lake Tahoe from the property.
“I knew I just had to get this restaurant,” he said. “Only a fool or a real believer would open a restaurant at, basically, the end of September. I guess I’m a little of both.
Finally, the corporations tired of looking for greener pastures and courting chain restaurants that considered the building too small.
Brandt officially takes ownership Sept. 1, but has already begun cleaning up and renovating the interior and landscaping.
He recognizes that many people are disappointed that a chain restaurant won’t be moving in. But he thinks he offers something better: quality and a focus on what works here.
“Chains can’t adapt. We can change very quickly. We’re not going to stick with something that doesn’t work.”
He’s also emphasizing local business.
“If it works for the local community, the tourists will be happy with it too. When people walk through the door, I don’t worry about whether they come from San Jose or from San Jose Avenue.”
His plans for the Shoreline Cafe is to provide family dining with dinner menus a “little bit nicer than that,” he said.
“It’s not the cheapest restaurant in town, but it’s a good restaurant where people will want to go to all the time.”
“We’re not trying to reinvent the restaurant at all, the thing is to see how well (the same concept) can be done.”
Brandt has a sublease with Sara Lee for the length of the corporations lease – seven years. He hopes to be there a lot longer.
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