Downtown Laguna Beach will get its latest caffeine infusion courtesy of Play Coffee.
The Laguna Beach Planning Commission unanimously voted to approve a remodel design and conditional use permit for a single-story office building at 500 Broadway St. on Aug. 3.
Play Coffee owner Leon Wansikehian, has operated Play Coffee’s downtown Fullerton for two years. He previously worked for Kean Coffee, Orange County’s original artisan coffee roaster. Wansikehian lives with his family in Laguna Beach and is building a home on Flamingo Road.
“We’re so happy to be submitting this application to Laguna. Me and my family we’ve lived here in the city for a number of years,” Wansikehian said. “We’re excited to be a bigger part of the community commercially and residentially once again.”
Commissioner Susan McLintock Whitin said she visited the Fullerton location where she surveyed its younger customer base and energetic atmosphere.
“It feels like a place where the cyclists would stop. There are a lot of cycling groups that roar down the canyon to the beach and this could easily get overrun. I could see it getting too popular,” Whitin said.
Play Coffee will renovate the 1,450-square-foot space between the nonprofit Core IQ and Crankbrokers, an upscale bicycle supplies retailer. The 1946 commercial building was last occupied by Stearns Architecture.
Design plans include pulling back the storefront by about 13 feet to create a 12-seat outdoor dining area.
In addition to its coffee bar, Play Coffee will offer weekly courses where 12 to 15 participants can learn brewing methods and how to compare flavor, quality, and potential of various beans.
Commissioner Steven Kellenberg was happy to see city staff help reinvigorate a storefront at Broadway Street and Forest Avenue. A building across Broadway from the future coffeehouse has been vacant since Forest and Ocean Gallery closed earlier this year.
“That is such a dead-beat location and to be able to bring some life to it, especially a beautiful piece of architectural design, as well as a very cool use,” Kellenberg said. “We need another coffee place. I’m so tired of Starbucks.”
The Downtown Specific Plan requires that non-residential uses such as office, retail, and food services provide at least three off-street parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of gross floor area. However, given the property was developed without on-site parking, Play Coffee will be allowed to operate with this grandfathered condition. City staffers claim there will be no new impacts on public parking.
There will be space for a handful of customers to park their bicycles in the outdoor seating area, Wansikehian said.
“I think it’s a great environment for people to enjoy that space. I think it activates the intersection and gives it a serious upgrade to what’s existed there as long as I can remember,” Planning Commission Chair Pro Tem Jorg Dubin said.