The restaurant that will occupy the Fontana Woman's Club building in the downtown area is scheduled to open later this year, thanks in part to some financial assistance from the city.
Spaggi's, an Italian restaurant, will open "in the next couple of months," according to Phil Burum, the deputy city manager, who gave a presentation during a City Council meeting last month.
The restaurant, when opened, will play a significant part in enhancing economic development in the downtown area, the city said in a staff report.
Officials are hoping the eatery will be as successful as the original Spaggi's, which is located in Upland. Executive chef Henry Gonzalez is aiming to open a high-quality, upscale restaurant while at the same time preserving the historical character of the building, which was built in 1925.
The Fontana Woman's Club, a nonprofit group, owns the clubhouse at 16880 Seville Avenue. However, because of the building's age, it has needed many improvements, and over the past two years, the City Council approved a total of $600,000 in grant funding to assist in the rehabilitation of the interior.
Then on May 25, the City Council authorized a second amendment to loan an additional $125,000 to pay for additional expenses. The money is to be paid back in the amount of $175,000 over the next 10 years, the city said in a staff report.
The vote in favor of the loan was 3-1, with Councilmember Jesse Sandoval opposing the amendment. City Councilmember Phillip Cothran recused himself because he owns property near the clubhouse.
Sandoval asked Burum what guarantee the city would have that the loan would be repaid.
"The security is the lease. It's vastly dependent on the success of the restaurant operator that is there," said Burum.
He said the members of the Woman's Club could not raise the dues enough to complete the improvements themselves.
"Now they have a building that is in 90 percent better occupancy shape than it was two years ago, so the likelihood of ongoing revenue is substantially greater than it was before -- but there are no guarantees," Burum said.
The staff report said that the city has determined that the owner's operation of the business will result in substantial benefits to the city, including the creation of new employment opportunities, property tax revenues, and sales tax revenues.
"The tangible benefit is the tax revenue; I think that is far secondary than the image benefit for downtown," Burum said.
Councilmember John Roberts said that preserving the clubhouse is a very worthwhile objective.
"The Fontana Woman's Club building is probably one of the most significant historical buildings in Fontana," said Roberts, adding that helping preserve it "helps preserve Fontana."
Mayor Acquanetta Warren said the opening of Spaggi's will be the "catalyst for getting our downtown started."
"This community deserves this type of restaurant," said Warren, who has been told by residents that they are excited about the prospect of having their wedding or birthday celebration there.