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BizHawk: Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican Cuisine Takes Over Prime Downtown Santa Barbara Spot

TurboFit opens fitness center in Carpinteria, Sprouts Farmers Market prepares to open in Goleta, and transient occupancy tax revenues remain level despite vacation-rental restrictions

Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican Cuisine opened in La Arcada last month, at 1114 State St., and is owned by Brendan Searles, pictured, Karen Phillips and Sean Hecht.
Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican Cuisine opened in La Arcada last month, at 1114 State St., and is owned by Brendan Searles, pictured, Karen Phillips and Sean Hecht.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

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Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican Cuisine opened last month in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara’s La Arcada dining and shopping plaza, at 1114 State St.

The restaurant, which boasts ample outdoor seating, two floors of indoor seating, a bar and an event room, is the latest establishment in the location’s 70 years of restaurants, which most recently was Cielito.

In its entirety, the restaurant boasts a 400-person capacity.

“The key is, this is really a place for locals,” said Brendan Searles, who owns Viva along with partners Karen Phillips and Sean Hecht. “There are very few patios in Santa Barbara where you can sit without being able to see traffic.”

All of La Arcada’s other merchants, he added, are locals, too.

Searles, who has been in the Santa Barbara restaurant and bar business since 1990, has started numerous other establishments in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, including Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, which he co-founded, and Pizza Mizza, which he still owns.

Viva serves a wide variety of Mexican dishes, along with salads, soups, flatbreads and a “gringo cheeseburger,” and has a comprehensive bar.

“We really gave the menu back to the kitchen, where we have two fantastic chefs,” Searles said. “They are magicians, where I allow them to express themselves through the food.”

“We make our own chips, we make our own salsas, we make our own guac, we make our own sauces,” he added. “And so it’s a really from-scratch kitchen.”

Viva has two Monday-through-Friday taco happy hours, as well: from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to midnight.

And with its event room and ample space, it has already hosted a number of live music events, and can host weddings, class reunions and quinceañeras, Searles said.

Rob Burke opens 5,000-square-foot gym in Carpinteria

Rob Burke, a fitness trainer with 30 years of experience, has opened TurboFit Fitness Center, his fourth gym, in Carpinteria.

The wellness center, as he prefers to say, opened at the beginning of the month at 4188 Carpinteria Ave., and focuses on nonstop, high-intensity, 30-minute intervals of exercise.

“The most important thing is that it’s all-encompassing,” Burke told Noozhawk. “It’s a very holistic approach.”

Burke discovered Carpinteria while he and a local friend were driving through the city on a visit from Washington State, where he had his last gym.

Burke said he outgrew the Carpinteria training studio he founded six years ago, and opened up the wellness center with an extra focus on customer service and for clients who aren’t as keen on the big-gym-type environment.

Training regimens are divided into eight-week periods, and nutrition programs make up an important component of them.

The body responds best to intense training featuring a variety of different activities, Burke said, which leaves the body’s metabolism rate elevated several hours after the exercise period ends.

The wellness center is open 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

Sprouts Farmers Market taking over former Haggen in Goleta

After the grocery store Haggen’s short-lived stint on the South Coast — and the rest of California — a handful of big-name grocery competitors have taken over its former stores.

The latest reopening will be Aug. 24, when Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market opens at 175 N. Fairview Ave. in Goleta.

Albertsons, Vons and Smart & Final have also claimed former Haggen locations.

Sprouts spokesperson Allison Jordan told Noozhawk that the 7 a.m. ribbon-cutting event will kick off numerous offers and giveaways that day, including 20 percent off the initial total purchases of the first 200 shoppers, a coupon book for every 15th customer, one-dollar deals throughout the store, and a free reusable bag plus muffin and coffee samples for customers.

On the following Saturday, Jordan said, the first 200 customers will receive coupons for five free sandwiches, and on that Sunday, every 15th customer will receive a $5 coupon for a purchase worth more than $15 the following week.

Despite vacation-rental restrictions, TOT collection in Santa Barbara remains consistent

With businesses finishing their numbers for their second quarter and governments reviewing how their 2016 fiscal years went, Santa Barbara reported that the city’s hotels, motels and short-term vacation rentals paid slightly less in transient-occupancy taxes than it had hoped.

Fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, saw $18.56 million in collected TOT, 5.8 percent short of the $19.7 million adopted TOT budget.

The final amount collected, however, is still a smidgen above FY 2015, and comes a year after the City Council unanimously agreed to enforce restrictions on one of the sources of TOT, short-term vacation rentals.

The tax is paid by businesses who rent accommodations for folks staying with them for less than a month.

Numerous hotels — which are a big source of TOT revenue — are currently in various stages of development in the city.​

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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