The new food hall in the center of National City is buzzing every day of the week. People sip coffee while browsing their laptops in the morning, colleagues chat about the day at lunch, and families break bread around long wooden tables for dinner.
Since opening at the end of last year, the Market on 8th has turned a once burned-out corner into a community gathering space. The owners now want to add to that experience with live entertainment and new alcohol sales.
Many residents are excited about the additions. Others worry that current challenges, such as finding street parking, will worsen.
To make these business changes, Joel Tubao, who owns and operates the Market with his family, requested permission from the city.
He got it last week when the City Council unanimously backed his proposals with some conditions. The council’s vote came after hearing about three dozen mixed public comments.
“The market, in general, has been a real catalyst for 8th Way, for our downtown,” said Deputy Mayor Marcus Bush. “This space has really become a public gathering space and community space.”
Council members approved modifications to the business’s conditional use permit, allowing live shows and expanded hours of operation at the site, which is located at 8th Street and A Avenue.
The changes mean the food hall can now host live entertainment, including bands, karaoke or DJs, from 8am to 1am daily and sell craft beer and wine until midnight. Before the approval, the business could only have a single entertainer and sell beer from Novo Brazil — the only beer vendor in the food hall — until 10 p.m. , which is surrounded by a low-level metal fence, and sell alcohol to go.
Some residents fear the extended hours and alcohol sales are “a recipe for trouble,” Bill McColl said.
Others worried about potential noise disturbances and allowing drinking in the front yard. Tubao said he’s not looking to turn his establishment into a nightclub or a place where “a bunch of hotheads come in and just party and drink a lot.”
“What we’re looking to do is add more value to the community. You can sit down with a nice glass of wine or craft beer and enjoy the community,” he said, adding that he envisions occasional jazz bands, as well as hosting yoga on the patio and offering kombucha.
Dominic Hernandez, a chef at one of the food hall’s 12 vendors, said providing a venue for open mic nights would enhance the hall as a gathering space for people of diverse interests and backgrounds.
Council member Ron Morrison made some suggestions, which the rest of the council approved. He called for alcohol sales to be cut off at midnight rather than 1 a.m. and to limit beer to four-packs of 16-ounce cans.
One of the most pressing concerns for some residents, business owners and some council members was parking. Since the Market’s opening, street parking on A Avenue and the surrounding area has been challenging as the food hall and several neighboring properties do not have parking lots.
David Ramos, who lives on A Avenue near the food hall, said he opposed the permit changes because the later hours will mean more customers and less parking.
“I come home and the first thing I have to do is wait in front of my house just to get a parking spot and so does every one of my neighbors,” he said.
While the Market is not required to provide parking for patrons, Tubao said he has spoken with Southwestern College about allowing patrons to park in their parking complex at National City Boulevard and 8th Street.
Morrison highlighted the need for more parking or better ways to circulate traffic if longer hours lead patrons to stay longer. He suggested adding metered parking to the area. The city is currently drafting a parking management plan and a pilot program that would add meters along several downtown streets.
Bush said “parking is definitely going to be a challenge” wherever density increases, such as downtown with several new small businesses and Parco, a 127-unit mixed-use residential and commercial building across from the food hall.
Jose Rivas, who works at Market and lives on A Avenue, said the recent growth in his neighborhood and the food hall as an anchor has brought life back to what was once “a ghost town.”