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Palo Alto’s Natural Gas Ban Could Derail Plans for Celeb Chef José Andrés’s First Bay Area Restaurant

Plus, you can join Dominique Crenn’s membership club for just $3,800 and more Bay Area food intel

José Andrés onstage at the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals Photo by Amanda Stronza/Getty Images for SXSW
Dianne de Guzman is a deputy editor at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, upcoming openings, and pop-ups.

Nationwide, laws to ban natural gas in cities have sparked an ongoing debate over the last year or so, and now those bans seem to be affecting an incoming Palo Alto restaurant from renowned chef and founder of nonprofit World Central Kitchen José Andrés. Palo Alto Online reports the owner of Stanford Shopping Center is threatening to sue the city of Palo Alto over the city council’s refusal to approve the use of natural gas in a building being constructed to house the star chef’s upcoming restaurant and first in the Bay Area, Zaytinya. The new building is one of three Simon Property Group submitted applications to build in November 2019, set for a space at Stanford Shopping Center that was previously occupied by a former Macy’s Men’s store.

In a letter to the city from Simon Property Group’s attorney, the group stated it should be allowed to connect the new restaurant building to a gas line installed in January 2021 — well before Palo Alto approved its natural gas restrictions in October 2022 — and that previous approval of the project gives the shopping center the right to use the gas line. Andrés’s group expressed interest in the space and entered a lease with the developer at the end of last year; the letter suggests the restaurant will not move forward if it can’t have a gas connection. For its part, the city council argues it shouldn’t have to allow the shopping center to use the installed gas line since the group has not yet gotten a building permit for the restaurant structure. As of its May 8 session, the city council has not taken any further actions on the matter, according to Palo Alto Online.

Crenn Group relaunches membership club

Fans of celeb chef Dominique Crenn who have a dime to spare will be chuffed to hear her restaurant group relaunched a membership club that allows diners to bypass the reservation system and guarantees dinner seats an annual fee, the San Francisco Standard reports. As a member of the Crenn Collection, which costs $3,800 for a single member or $5,800 for dual membership, diners can pull a table at Atelier Crenn or Bar Crenn, anywhere from 72 hours to a year in advance. Other benefits include “bespoke events” such as picnics at Crenn’s Bleu Belle Farm or spirits tasting at Bar Crenn, and access to dedicated concierge service and “professional advice from Crenn leaders on wine, food, and cocktails,” the website says. The membership originally launched in September 2021, but was brought back this month after the renovations of Atelier Crenn and Bar Crenn wrapped up earlier this year, a representative for Crenn Group shares.

New members-only wine club focuses on queer and POC winemakers

Fat Cat is a new wine club run by Jessica Bell, who works as a team lead at Bay Grape wine shop in Oakland. The club focuses on bottle selections from underrepresented queer winemakers, producers of color, and lesser-known wines such as Indigenous American varietals, the San Francisco Standard reports. The club will have pickups in San Francisco and the East Bay, with “nonalcoholic, basic, and premium levels,” the Standard shares.

Oliver’s Brewhouse and Grill to close

The couple behind Lincoln restaurant Oliver’s Brewhouse and Grill announced they will be closing down to focus on “other projects and passions that have been stirred during the COVID shutdowns,” the Sacramento Bee reports. Owner Matthew Oliver is a pastor, and the Bee notes that he most likely is focusing on Liberty Learning Ministry, “an independent learning membership program.”

You get a Slice House! And you get a Slice House!

Pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani is looking to take his pies nationwide, setting up a franchise program for Slice House, SFGATE reports. Existing locations in Haight-Ashbury, San Leandro, Belmont, and Walnut Creek will transition from licensed businesses into franchise stores, while Gemignani will continue to run the original North Beach location. He hopes to open “at least 60 Slice House stores in California” and 24 others are reportedly already in development.