VISTA — Between the red brick and adobe walls of a former Mexican restaurant, Partake Gastropub sits on Paseo Santa Fe in Vista. Located between Civic Center and Oceanview drives, its rustic exterior is a sharp contrast to the surrounding landscape, which is home to a local lumber yard, liquor store and several abandoned buildings.
Proprietor Keith Fournier opened Partake in 2015, following his passion for fine wine and creative cuisine. Business was going well, he said, until a city construction project started in December 2017, presenting a bump in the road. In March, Fournier began feeling its effects, which progressed rapidly.
“Literally in the last three weeks it’s cut my business by half, easily,” Fournier said.
The project is phase II of the Paseo Santa Fe Improvement Project, a Vista city initiative intended to enhance the street by taking utility lines underground, increasing pedestrian access and adding in roundabouts, among other improvements. The goal by the project’s scheduled 2020 completion date is to totally make over Vista’s downtown area, making it more accommodating for restaurants and shops.
“It has been over 20 years in the making,” City of Vista Communications Officer Andrea McCullough said. “It was a vision by former city council and current city council to take this blighted stretch of corridor and revitalize it.”
While Fournier is looking forward to the finished product, he worries that Partake will not be around to reap the benefits.
“There are going to be some amazing things here,” Fournier said. “But I may not be here to witness it, which is a shame.”
Vista Economic Development Director Kevin Ham recognizes this is an issue for businesses on the strip. The city will provide additional signage for Partake. Fournier has kept in close contact with the city and the project foreman regarding solutions like these. Still, he would like to see more from Vista, including a newsletter urging residents to support Partake and the other businesses during construction.
Ham said the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Vista Village Business Association have a similar newsletter for this purpose. McCullough added that the city consistently updates residents on the Paseo Santa Fe project and affected establishments in its business news publication.
“We keep residents informed about that, what’s going on, businesses are open, et cetera,” McCullough said.
Vista Village and the Historic Downtown are two other areas that have undergone enhancements over the past 20 years as a part of revitalization efforts. Ham said by the end, existing businesses did not have to close, and the neighborhoods improved significantly.
Forty-two-year Vista resident Julian, who requested The Coast News use his first name only, sees similarities between the Vista Village project and Paseo Santa Fe. He said neither area was very nice to start, and he described his perception of Paseo Santa Fe.
“It was blighted, people crawling around at night,” Julian said. “Definitely a rough area. And the businesses have not progressed over the years.”
After Vista Village was completed in the mid-2000s, Julian said the area felt more like a destination, which he believes could happen on Paseo Santa Fe.
“They did a lot of enhancements and changes to bring new businesses in, but also to improve the legacy businesses, and that really seemed to revitalize that area,” Julian said.
As the construction continues, Ham recommends businesses complement the city’s efforts with their own marketing, notifying patrons of specials and alternative entrances.
Fournier does this at Partake — the gastropub participates in local events and maintains an active presence on Facebook, Instagram and Yelp.
“I’m actually sending out a video message on Facebook and Instagram to let the community know that the ongoing construction is negatively affecting my business,” Fournier said. “I’m asking for their support during this time.”
The construction project is set to wrap up in 2020. More information can be found on the city of Vista website.