Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 10:48 pm | Fair 62º



Baja Sharkeez Celebrates Grand Opening of New Downtown Restaurant

Mexican eatery moves into the former location of Madison’s Sports Grill & Tavern location at 525 State St. in Santa Barbara

Baja Sharkeez Mexican restaurant will celebrate the grand opening Thursday night of its new downtown Santa Barbara location.

Sharkeez is moving from 416 State St. to the former Madison’s Sports Grill & Tavern location at 525 State St. Both businesses spent 13 years at their respective locations.

Madison’s co-owners Diane and Derek Harding took over the business in 2006 and closed in February. Diane Harding just got “burned out,” Sharkeez co-owner Ron Newman said.

“She has mainly been running it herself, and I think she just finally got burned out,” Newman said. “It’s very competitive in Santa Barbara, and you have to be out all night and work late hours.”

Harding told Newman that she is done with the industry for now but may eventually open another restaurant in Goleta.

“We at Madison’s Sports Grill regret to inform you of the closure of our restaurant of almost 14 years,” Madison’s staff said in an email to its customers. “On behalf of all our staff we want to say thank you so much for your loyalty, support and all the memories of good times! Farewell for now and we look forward to seeing you all again in the near future!”

The move up State Street is a good fit for the Baja Sharkeez Restaurant Group, which owns Sandbar Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar across the street, Panama Joe’s and Palmilla.

“We do more business in this location, plus the store was laid out well,” Newman said. “When we originally bought The Tank and turned it into Sharkeez, it was something that never felt 100 percent us.”

Now, Newman and his son, Greg, can start from scratch. They’ve fully renovated the space, and installed LED lighting and more than 60 high-definition TVs mixed with a Spanish décor.

But the new Sharkeez will not host 18-and-over nights in accordance with its conditional dance permit. Five minors were cited with possession of alcohol between Oct. 20 and Nov. 1, 2011, although Sharkeez bartenders did not serve them, according to a city staff report.

“Greg Newman said they have not received any ABC violations for serving alcohol to minors,” the report reads. “The citations were issued to the patrons.”

Ron Newman previously owned the restaurant chain Red Onion. After his son graduated from USC, they wanted to create a restaurant that had inexpensive, quality food and a fun atmosphere. They opened their first Sharkeez in 1993 in Manhattan Beach and have expanded to six locations while incorporating more sports and dancing, Newman said, adding that the father-son duo plan to open one new Sharkeez and Palmilla every year.

“What we’re hoping for is that (the new location) ends up having the same image as the restaurants in Hermosa, Newport and Huntington,” Newman said. “I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere in this area.”

The Sharkeez grand opening on Thursday will begin at 5 p.m. As for Sharkeez’s former location, Michael Borrello submitted a dance permit for SB Cantina in March. An opening date has not been determined.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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