If the owner of Saigon Express gets his way, customers might be able to buy a beer with their meal at the restaurant’s grand opening.
The restaurant, which is taking the place of Menehunes on Pardall Road, is scheduled to open by the end of the month, once remodeling is finished. Saigon Express Owner Timothy Yun said the eatery is a branch of his family-owned business, the Saigon Noodle House, which is located on Hollister Road. He said he is still waiting for the California Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to approve a deal that would allow the previous tenant to transfer the restaurant’s liquor license to Saigon Express.
Yun said he hopes to provide high-quality Vietnamese cuisine to students and I.V. residents.
“The food will be lighter, faster … our aim is the students,” Yun said.
In order to avoid applying for a whole new liquor license, Yun said he is trying to purchase the existing liquor license from Menehunes – the Hawaiian-themed bar and grill that previously occupied the space. Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lt. Sol Linver said Menehunes generated most of its revenue from alcohol sales.
“[Menehunes] was a bar that happens to sell food, not a restaurant that happens to sell alcohol,” Linver said.
Jason Smith, who works at The Study Hall in I.V., said he thinks it is easier for a new restaurant to purchase a liquor license that already exists because ABC is reluctant to issue new licenses to I.V. establishments. ABC typically only grants 10 licenses to each community and I.V. already has at least 15 restaurants that serve alcohol.
“You can buy a license to sell alcohol, it’s just a matter of if ABC will let you,” Smith said. “There can only be so many [licenses] per capita, and Isla Vista is over that.”
Yun said Lt. Linver originally opposed the transfer of the liquor license because he thought Saigon Express would generate most of its revenue through alcohol sales, like Menehunes did. He said there would be beer and wine for sale at Saigon Express, but that the restaurant will focus on selling food.
“The previous owner had a license and he tried to take advantage [of it],” Yun said. “[Alcohol] should be a compliment to the food. Lt. Sol Linver first thought we were going to operate the same. … But we’re not; we’re a restaurant business. It was only a misunderstanding.”