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Space gets filled at Triangle Square

December 06, 2002

Lolita Harper

The Triangle Square space that once housed the popular Sfuzzi

restaurant is set to welcome a new tenant, city officials said.

City Zoning Administrator Perry Valantine confirmed Thursday that

a new restaurant called Fugu was prepared to lease the third-level

hot spot. Fugu plans to offer dining, dancing and cocktails until 2

a.m., Valantine said.

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Triangle Square owner Kenny Won, who is listed on the city

applications, did not return phone calls.

Unlike other nightclubs proposed for the downtown area, Fugu did

not have to bring its plans to the Planning Commission for public

scrutiny, officials said. Valantine said Fugu was simply a restaurant

taking over another restaurant space, and the only minor issues were

the entertainment aspects and hours of operation.

While the hours are more aligned with that of a club than a

restaurant, Valantine said plans for the venue dedicate substantial

space to dining, including a sushi bar.

"Looking at the floor plan and the size of the kitchen, they have

a working model for a restaurant with a small dance floor," Valantine

said.

Fugu will offer 4,500 square feet of dining area, 1,500 for

lounging, 640 for an outside patio and less than 500 for a dance

floor. The restaurant also has a specific liquor license that

requires gross sales of food to exceed gross sales of alcohol.

Nightclub owner James Raven, who will bring Vegas to Costa Mesa

next year, said his attempt to bring a night club to that center was

like trying to fit a round peg in a triangle square.

Raven said he negotiated unsuccessfully for 18 months with the

owner of Triangle Square to bring his high scale entertainment venue

to the vacant Sfuzzi space. Negotiations bottomed-out and Raven

turned his attention to the stylish Spanish building across the

street.

Vegas, a nightspot aimed at upscale professionals between 25 and

40, will be on the subterranean floor of 1901 Newport, which used to

be called Pacific Savings Plaza. Raven doubled his square-footage by

moving across the street.

On paper, Triangle Square has a recipe for success: big name

anchors -- such as Nike Town, GAP, Barnes & Noble and Virgin

Megastore -- a popular restaurant and nighttime hangout in the Yard

House, great freeway access and 192,000 square feet of leasable

space.

But in the past 10 years, Triangle Square has consistently failed

to retain tenants and field complaints of poor management. Even with

a change in management companies, the center still continues to have

problems filling empty retail space. The Sfuzzi spot has been a

gaping whole on the third level for more than a year.

Raven said he welcomes Fugu or any another entertainment venue in

the downtown area because it will help create an entertainment

district and ultimately attract more people.

Councilman Gary Monahan said he was pleased Triangle Square was

making progress, but he is skeptical.

"I'll believe it when it happens," Monahan said. "I've seen others

things approved at Triangle Square that have never happened. I

certainly hope the center will get another tenant and be energized,

but I will hold judgment until I actually see it."

* LOLITA HARPER covers Costa Mesa. She may be reached at (949)

574-4275 or by e-mail at lolita.harper@latimes.com.

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