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San Diego
Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Old Town’s New Look Puts Powers In the Past

Diane Powers says she made up her mind three weeks ago to give up her nearly yearlong fight to overturn the state’s decision to award the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park’s concession to Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts.

Finally, Powers, who has run the state’s most lucrative concession for more than three decades, made it official.

Bazaar del Mundo, the company she founded to operate the concession that included a collection of shops and restaurants, soon will vacate what is called the Mexican Commercial Corner and an adjacent historic hotel.

“There comes a point when you have to turn and go in a different direction,” she said after reaching an agreement last week with the state Department of Parks and Recreation and Delaware North to vacate at the end of May. “I had to just say, ‘You know what, I’ve got to move on to more positive things and begin the creative part rather than delve in the negative.'”

For now, moving on means just a block away.

Powers, who operated the concession for 33 years, said she will relocate 12 of Bazaar del Mundo’s 16 shops to newly renovated quarters in a two-story office building she owns on Taylor Street, next to another of her restaurants, Casa Guadalajara. She anticipates reopening the shops June 1.

Delaware North, awarded the concession’s contract in late 2003, will take over operations June 1. The Buffalo, N.Y.-based firm plans to call it Plaza del Pasado.

The Bazaar del Mundo shops will stop doing business in Old Town State Historic Park on May 9. Closure of the company’s four restaurants will be staggered between May 16 and May 23. Casa de Pico’s last day of operation in Old Town will be on May 15. It is scheduled to reopen in the Grossmont Shopping Center in mid-June.


Looking To Move

Powers said she is in negotiations with San Diego-based GMS Realty to sublease about 45,000 square feet of property at Seaport Village in the vicinity of the historic Old Police Headquarters to expand her enterprise with 15 stores and three restaurants. GMS Realty is the master lessee of the property, which is controlled by the San Diego Unified Port District.

If plans go as expected, Powers said the Seaport Village operation could open sometime in the fall or winter of 2006.

Bazaar del Mundo formally protested the Parks Department’s decision during a hearing in May 2003, but the presiding administrative law judge subsequently upheld the state’s decision in late summer. Powers then appealed the state agency’s decision in San Diego Superior Court, but in December she lost that battle as well.

Over the years, Bazaar del Mundo made the Old Town State Historic Park concession the state’s most lucrative, having reported sales of some $27 million in 2003. The 12-acre park has annually ranked at the top of the San Diego Business Journal’s list of most popular tourist attractions, generating some 6 million visitors every year.

As part of Delaware North’s proposal for the concession, it plans to invest about $12 million in upgrades to renovate the historic structures. Construction on the project is to begin immediately and run through the next 12 to 18 months.


New Look For Old Town

Roseanne Diamond-De La Mata, the general manager of Delaware North’s Old Town operation, said the company plans to open three new restaurants June 1 and phase in 11 retail stores in the meantime.

The new restaurants include: Casa de Reyes; one in the Old Town Park Square that will be called the Jolly Boy Restaurant and Saloon, its original historic name; and the Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel, a national and state historic landmark, which is now the location of Casa de Bandini.

Casa de Reyes, located in what is referred to as the Mexican Commercial Corner, will feature Mexican cuisine, but will also add steaks and pork chops to the menu “as a link to the vaqueros, who were in San Diego from 1821 to 1846,” Diamond-De La Mata said.

The Jolly Boy Restaurant and Saloon, which originated during the “transitional” period after 1846, will also serve Mexican fare, but will add seafood, “reflecting the time the Port of San Diego opened,” she added.

The second phase of remodeling, which is scheduled to start in the spring of 2006, will be devoted to restoring the Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel. The top tier of the two-story building will be made into a nine-room bed and breakfast inn that will be rented at rates starting at $250 a night, Diamond-De La Mata said.

Delaware North plans to fill about 350 to 400 full-time positions at its new operations, Diamond-De La Mata said, adding that about 225 employees of Bazaar del Mundo have applied for jobs. She said the company projects its revenue will be about $20 million in its first full year of operation and will climb to $28 million by the third year. Its contract for the concession runs 10 years.

Delaware North is one of the nation’s largest hospitality and food service concessionaires. In addition to the Old Town operation, a Delaware North subsidiary, Sportservice, provides concessions at Petco Park. In California, it provides concessions and lodging at Yosemite and Sequoia national parks and concessions, lodging and a conference facility at Asilomar State Park in Monterey Bay.

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