When you own a bar and burger joint named Nicky Rottens in a part of town that has a reputation for drunk and disorderly patrons, it's hard to get respect.
That has not stopped Tim Aaron and Nick Tomasello from trying. They have spent $1 million renovating the 1926 building that most recently housed the Island Saloon on the north side of town. They have preserved its bricks, installed laminated windows and imported red oak to build the bar and balcony. “The wood alone cost $200,000,” Tomasello said.
By pouring money into the building, the owners hope to set a tone. “We’re all a product of our environment,” Tomasello said. “If you’re in a classy place, you act classy.
“We want to do here what Ron Chapman did at the Coronado Brewing Company,” he continued. “It’s a place you can bring your family. We want the same for our place.”
To pull it off, they believe they need a new liquor license for the restaurant, set to open next month. The one they have now lets them sell whatever adult beverage they want, but they can’t serve minors. The license goes back to the 1950s; when Tomasello and Aaron bought the building, they also bought the license.
Last week, Tomasello sought a downgraded license, one normally issued to restaurants with full bars, from the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Which raises the question, if they wanted to be a family restaurant, why did they wait to apply for the altered license?
“We had to. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to open,” Aaron said. “The approval process would have pushed the opening back months and we would not have been able to serve drinks.”
Applying for a new license poses some risks. The public will be able to weigh in; given Nicky Rottens' history with some of the neighbors, a number of residents may ask the state agency to reject the application.
Many nearby residents, especially those living at the Point, have fought the project from the beginning. The restaurant, though, continues to draw support from most of the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce.
At the June 21 council meeting, Councilwoman Carrie Downey said the application was a way to insure that Nicky Rottens Bar and Burger Joint would truly be family friendly.
She urged residents throughout Coronado to write letters of support. If the license is turned down, she pointed out that the establishment will remain a bar. “We don’t need more taverns,” she said.
When it opens on July 15 Nicky Rottens will remain adults only. Aaron and Tomsasello hope this is just a temporary condition.