by David Mendez

Located in the heart of Riviera Village, Rebel Republic Social House launched with a soft opening on April 23, seeking to bring in the 21- to 25-year-old crowd often found in the bars and restaurants of nearby Hermosa Beach.

But the Village’s newest restaurant might signal an even greater change to the popular South Redondo shopping district.

Rebel Republic’s draw is an outdoor dining deck, the first in a City of Redondo Beach-initiated pilot program. The program aims to create a more aesthetically-pleasing, outdoor-friendly Catalina Avenue corridor, and the location was one of two sites considered for dining decks; a second location was identified for the space in front of Redondo Beach Brewing Company and Zazou. However, only Rebel Republic applied to the program.

The deck is already paying dividends for the restaurant, which is still at least a week away from its grand opening. “If the weather’s nice, [the deck’s] the place to be,” said Rebel Republic manager operating partner Andrew North.

It has had detractors, most prominently on the neighborhood-based social media network Nextdoor. Users have complained about both about aesthetics and the loss of three parking spaces caused by the installation of the deck. “If the other restaurants follow suit, wouldn’t we be eliminating precious parking, ultimately forcing cars into the nearby residential neighborhoods?” a Nextdoor post asked.

As it stands, Rebel Republic owner Paul Hennessey has offered three spaces behind his HT Grill restaurant as a replacement for the spaces lost.

But District 1 councilman Jeff Ginsburg said that a different parking solution has been discussed: Catalina Avenue could be narrowed. “Right now, it’s a very wide roadway, and narrowing would allow for additional parking,” Ginsburg said. “And, when you narrow a street, that slows traffic down naturally; people are more cautious, and they drive slower…it’d be safer for everyone, a win-win.”

The dining deck program, which was long a part of the city’s strategic plan, may also coincide with another recently-adopted plan item: A conversion of Catalina Avenue to a one-way road between Avenues I and Elena Avenue. That, Ginsburg said, would go a long way toward improving the walkability of the Village. “That would open up a lot of possibilities, including allowing bike lanes,” Ginsburg said. “I think it’d be a big win.”

That item is still in early review stages, and isn’t due to be discussed by council until September, City Manager Joe Hoefgen confirmed.

But expanded outdoor dining options could only happen if the pilot program passes muster — which, according to Ginsburg, relies on finding dining decks to be more beneficial to the area than not. “If there was crazy partying and police calls going on out there, I think that would be an unsuccessful program,” Ginsburg said. “But the times I’ve walked by there, I haven’t seen anyone acting out of hand — and I actually think it’s calmer than Mickey Finnz,” the restaurant concept replaced by Rebel Republic.

As for neighboring businesses, the consensus regarding the dining decks appears to be somewhere between jealousy and excitement. Ginsburg says that restaurants up and down the Village are interested in building decks of their own. Retail businesses are excited as well.

“Is it a loss of parking, or is it an opportunity to have excited customers?” Zosia Ware, of Safari Hat and Clothing Company, said. “We’re excited about something new with an opportunity to have more people excited to be here.”

Photo credit: David Mendez