Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Penny to Reopen

From the Californian

Nearly a year after its closure, the landmark Penny Farthing Tavern is set to reopen in Oldtown Salinas by Friday.

It could open earlier in the week, owner Huw Thomas said, but Friday carries a special urgency."The Salinas Jaycees are having a pub crawl that day," Thomas said. "I can't see why we wouldn't be open."

Over its 25 years in business, the Penny Farthing found a special place in the hearts of customers such as Brian Courrejou, who can't wait to go back.
"Every Friday and Saturday night that was the place to go in Salinas," he said. "You'd see everyone you knew. It was almost like this town's 'Cheers.'"
"The outpouring has been incredible," Thomas said. "People stopping by and saying, 'When are you opening?' "

The tavern is creating 22 new jobs, most of them full time. Final building and health inspections, which Thomas expects to go smoothly, are the final hurdle.
The business has been shuttered since May, when owners Mark Oliver and Amanda Oliver entered Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

It was opened in 1984 by British natives Peter Blackwell and Tony Sutton-Deakin. Thomas, who managed it from 1986 to 1993, is president of Dunwoody Restaurant Group in Georgia. He owns seven pubs in the Atlanta area.

Another Penny Farthing fan, city planning commissioner Steve McShane, said he expects 200 to 250 people at Friday's pub crawl, which has a St. Patrick's Day theme. The event, open to the public, starts at 7 p.m. at Bankers Casino before hitting six more Oldtown Salinas bars and restaurants.

"This reopening is meeting with a lot of excitement," McShane said. "It's got a history. It's been real popular among the young professional crowd, a great place to go after work."

The Penny Farthing's new general manager and operating partner, Desmond Carreras, is a trained chef and self-described "foodie."

The 39-year-old grew up in that kind of family. Both his parents opened restaurants. He's worked for various eateries, among them The Palace in Gonzales and Russo's Seafood Palace and Oyster Bar in Salinas, which occupied a building near the train station that no longer exists. Carreras is also a partner in a gourmet jam and preserve business, Tuck Box, named for a Carmel restaurant. He's done catering, too.

Thomas and his wife met Carreras one night over drinks in Carmel and asked if he knew anybody who could manage the Penny Farthing.

"I always loved the Penny, and I loved the idea that they wanted to make it a restaurant," he said. "I'd love to run it, here I am."

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