Glendale: Middle Eastern restaurant seeks expansion

Middle Eastern restaurant seeks expansion

Raffi’s, which began as a take-out spot, has grown up and needs more room,
owner says.

By Jeremy Oberstein
Published: December 2008

DOWNTOWN – The city’s Redevelopment Agency is set to consider a more
than 5,200-square-foot renovation today for a storied Middle Eastern
restaurant that the owners say needs to expand to meet demand.

Raffi’s Place Restaurant, at 211 E. Broadway, is asking the agencyto
approve its plan to expand into 205 E. Broadway, which used to house
the law firm Ourfelian & Ourfelian and La Belle Cafe.

Restaurant officials are also seeking a 704-square-foot expansion for
the back of the eatery to allow the existing kitchen to grow with the
expected increase in customers. Of the 6,000 square feet proposed for
the revamped restaurant, more than half would be converted into an
indoor dining area on the bottom floor, while the second level would
be used exclusively for the restaurant’ s administrative operations.

`This is something that is very good for the city,’ said Herand Der
Sarkissian, the project’s lead architect and a former member of the
city’s Design Review Board. `It is a very prominent restaurant, one of
the most successful in Glendale, and they need to expand.’

Raffi’s Place has been a food destination in the heart of downtownfor
more than 25 years. The Middle Eastern restaurant has evolved from a
mostly take-out restaurant – offering service from a small storefront
– into one of the city’s most recognizable institutions catering to
lovers of pilaf and kebabs.

Officials said the eatery is operating at capacity, necessitating the
need to grow.

But there were significant challenges to growth, given the limited
available property downtown, leading restaurant owners to purchase the
cafe and adjoining law offices, both owned by Rafi Ourfelian, for an
undisclosed sum.

`I never intended to sell,’ Ourfelian said. `But [continuing to run
the businesses] became untenable.’

Notably, problems with the alley behind the establishments created
immense parking issues for the restaurant, cafe and law office in
which limited spaces decreased potential growth at each business.

`Both of our businesses were at stake,’ said Ourfelian, who said he
will move his law office to another location on Broadway.

According to officials close to the deal, the sale of the law office
and cafe is in escrow and should be finalized soon.

If Raffi’s converts the existing law office and cafe, officials plan
to stretch the facade around both buildings to `integrate the exciting
structures’ while maintaining its current design scheme, Der
Sarkissian said.

Though the top floor of the proposed 6,000-square-foot building would
be used for offices, officials said the entire site must be considered
a full-service restaurant, a designation that triggers a greater
number of mandated parking spaces.

As a result, the expansion will require 60 new available parking
spaces, though restaurant owners will receive a credit for 15 spaces
from the current office and retail use. Restaurant officials plan to
ask the agency for a 45-parking-space exemption for the rest of the
required spaces, citing theneed for just 27 spaces to satisfy customer
demand.

The alley behind the restaurant would also be revamped in the remodel.
Officials plan to close the small street to all vehicles, except
delivery trucks, and open up the stretch of pavement for pedestrians.

`It’s an exasperating parking situation in the back,’ Der Sarkissian
said. ` This is a solution that solves the issue of parking for the
restaurant and the city. It’s a win-win.’

The Redevelopment Agency is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. today in
City Council Chambers, 613 E. Broadway, 2nd Floor.

JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers business, politics and the foothills. He may
be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at
[email protected]

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

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