More than two years of hard work officially paid off Wednesday as stakeholders of the Funk Zone’s Anacapa project celebrated the grand opening of the new development's restaurant and cornerstone property.
Nine new businesses are slated to open at 131 Anacapa St., occupying 16,700 square feet of refurbished warehouse space in downtown Santa Barbara that formerly housed the Bay Café and the Santa Barbara Fish Market.
Many businesses in the block-long development along Yanonali Street between Anacapa and Helena streets had soft openings earlier this month or summer, while three businesses (Guitar Bar, Avelina Wine Company and Area 5.1) are nearing openings of their own.
Wednesday’s gathering served as a reminder of the development’s purpose: to revitalize the neighborhood with an “eat and drink local” mantra.
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider took part in three ribbon-cutting ceremonies in front of each business, along with Katie and David Hay of Central Coast Real Estate LLC — the developers put in charge of the project by a group of local investors who purchased the property more than two years ago.
Dozens of grand opening guests gathered for a cocktail and wine reception on the patio just outside The Lark, a sit-down restaurant and project cornerstone along with the Lucky Penny take-away vendor.
Sherry Villanueva, a principal of the restaurant venture, said The Lark has been packed to the point of turning people away every night since its soft opening last week.
Villanueva said the two eateries and wine bar have created 115 jobs between them, just another reason to celebrate.
Katie Hay added that she hoped the Anacapa project was just the first of future similar developments turning something old into something new.
"We're really excited to show how you can preserve and repurpose an old building," she said.