The 22nd Annual Taste of San Clemente hits the city Friday, November 2, and it will do so at one of San Clemente’s major landmarks for the first time.
This year’s Taste, the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce’s annual showcase for local restaurants and caterers in the area, will be held at the San Clemente Casino, which has been restored as a venue for events in the city.
Chamber President Lynn Wood said the event is the key event on the organization’s calendar for promoting local restaurants, and not necessarily for bringing in money.
“The board decided a long time ago that it doesn’t matter if we break even on it,” Wood noted. “The most important thing is to market the businesses. That’s our job.” This will also be the rare year for the Taste to be held indoors, in part to provide a stage for entertainment.
Casino co-owner Linda Sadeghi said the Casino has some unique aspects to offer as an event venue.
“I see it as a complement to all of the other venues,” Sadeghi said. “Perhaps it’s more entertainment directed, because it has a history as a music and dinner theater venue. And we can hold a larger group.” She noted that when the Casino opened in the ’30s, approximately 1,000 people celebrated in the ballroom. Today, it holds about 375, but has hosted between 500-600 on the grounds at open house events. “We’re also at a nice point with the renovations. We’re kind of in the home stretch.”
Casino general manager Kelly Roemer said there have been eight large events open to the public since the building reopened. The venue also provides the ability to host events in a different area of town, North Beach, and Roemer said that location could help to make more people aware of what could be done in that area of the city.
“We’re getting up there now with the improvements,” Roemer said. “This is why they (the Sadeghis) wanted the Casino in the first place, to host events of this nature. We’re excited. We’re right now taking part in monthly meetings to help and raise awareness of North Beach and try to find ways to get people to come up here.”
Mayor Jim Evert said he was part of the group that was meeting to discuss North Beach. He said getting more events in the area was very important, and the Casino could be the center of that effort.
“The Casino is just an outstanding venue,” Evert said. “A lot of charities and organizations use it for their fundraising events… The renovations have been excellent.”
There are a number of other events the city is scheduling in the area to bring more people there. This Christmas, for example, the annual Christmas train will be stopping at the North Beach Metrolink stop, rather than the Pier Bowl.
Such events may include a farmers market and a small cafe that would by operated by the Casino and a local caterer.
Some restaurants and other businesses are also using the event to make a splash locally. Restaurants, such as Sunsets at the Pier and South of Nick’s are participating in the event for the first time.
Brian Harrington, managing partner for Nick’s Restaurants, said any opportunity to connect to the community was welcome.
“It gives us yet another opportunity to connect with our neighbors and guests outside of our restaurants,” Harrington said. “Our teams at both stores are always eager to show off their culinary talents and they get a real thrill seeing folks enjoy their creations. We have been fortunate to enjoy solid and healthy business levels since day one at both South of Nick’s Mexican Kitchen and Nick’s on Avenida Del Mar in 2010.”
Harrington said it could be very helpful for a new restaurant to participate in events like the Taste.
“It’s always a great way to spread the word, meet folks and personally get to know them and invite them in to see what we are all about. We love this community, we built two restaurants here. We want to be here with and for the community of San Clemente.”
Another case is Bob Cooke, who is looking to open up a boutique cigar shop in town, Sweet Ash, with business partner James Moldenhauer. Cooke will be making cigars available for attendees of the event.
“We’re in the process, my partner and I, of trying to get a business in town. We’ve been cigar smokers for years. We’ve been looking for almost a year-and-a-half, primarily in the center of town.”
Cooke said he saw the event as a great way to make the community aware of the business as they try to find a storefront. “Being that it’s a local event for San Clemente, it’s important for us to be able to get our name out there.”
Cooke said the company would be looking to be a wholesale boutique for cigars, and would ultimately be looking to obtain a liquor license as well, in order to serve brandies and other high-end liquors.
As to the evening itself, there will be 28 restaurants and 12 wineries participating at this year’s Taste. The Casino’s stage also allows for live music. This year, the event will feature local cover band Sandbox, as well as Sharp Turn Ahead, a duo featuring 12-year-old twin brothers Kyle and Benjamin Sharp of Laguna Beach.
Tickets for the Taste are $75 and are only available in advance of the event. Tickets can be purchased online (www.scchamber.com/Event_Registration.asp). There are only 250 tickets available. For additional information, contact the Chamber at 949.492.1131.