The Seasons wants to bring late-night alfresco ambience to Modesto's dining and drinking scene.
The McHenry Avenue banquet hall and events center, formerly the Elks Lodge, is expanding to include a large outdoor bar and grill on its front lawn.
Construction and renovation have begun on the site, which owner Youra Tarverdi said will be transformed into a full-service outdoor restaurant called The Seasons Bar & Grill.
"We want to give our venue and customers more choices to pick from and a lot of them want an outdoor area to wine and dine," Tarverdi said.
"At the same time, we thought it'd be perfect for summer nights, a good place for people to come have a steak fresh off the grill. I think Modesto is in need of something like this; someplace that feels comfortable and is outdoors."
The Seasons holds special events, meetings and other festivities for community groups and private parties who rent the space. It also runs a catering service.
The addition will turn the hall from only an events center into a public restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating areas.
The 10,000-square-foot front lawn will be made into a concrete, fenced-in open air area with a grill, bar, two stages and flexible seating arrangements depending on use.
Tarverdi expects renovations to take about eight weeks. Bulldozers are excavating the front lawn to bring its drainage up to code.
He said private parties still will be able to rent the space, which will give the banquet hall's customers an outdoor option that previously was lacking.
When it is not in use for special events, the area will be open to the public as a restaurant and bar, primarily in the warmer months.
Tarverdi said the outdoor area will be able to accommodate as many as 500 for special events and as many as 250 as a restaurant. The tentative plan is to have the restaurant open seven days a week for lunch, dinner and late-night service.
Manager Benny Enwiya said that to set itself apart, the restaurant would cater to a late-night, after-hours crowd.
"We can be an after-party place. When the bars close, we can have water, juice, soda and food for people who don't want to go to Jack in the Box or Denny's," Enwiya said.
But he said that while they want late-night partygoers to stop by, they are not trying to make the new restaurant into a nightclub.
"We're not shooting to be (part of the club) scene," he said. "We're shooting for more of a bar and grill scene. A place where people can hang out, have a few drinks and food all though the night."
Tarverdi said he does not expect the changes to bring more noise or congestion to the area. The Seasons sits along a commercially zoned block on McHenry, with a residential area behind it.
Neighbors on Douglas Avenue, which faces The Seasons parking lot, declined to comment on the construction.
Neighbor worried about wall
However, Bob Bhukhan, owner of next-door business Halford's Cleaners, which shares an alley with The Seasons, said he is concerned about plans for a wall around the outdoor area.
The proposed wall on the dry cleaner's side of the project would be 12 feet high. The wall would be 6 feet high along McHenry and Fairmont avenues.
"Even with the temporary fencing up (for construction), sometimes I miss my own place," Bhukhan said. "So I'm worried about my visibility."
Tarverdi filed his building plans with the city and received permit approval last summer.
But he said the poor economy delayed his construction start date until late last month. Last week, he filed amended plans, which changed the layout and adjusted some designs.
The Seasons holds a valid liquor license and dance permit.
As with every Modesto bar and club, the venue will need to apply for a new entertainment permit in the coming months. The city is making a transition from Police Department-issued dance permits to commission-approved entertainment permits.
Two stages are planned for the new area, but Tarverdi said the live entertainment outside primarily will be acoustic music.
The outside décor will have a "Tuscany, vineyard feel," Tarverdi said, and the seating areas will be a mix of tables and patio furniture. The food mostly will be grilled fare off the outdoor barbecue.
Tarverdi said he will hire an additional 40 to 50 employees. He estimates the renovations will cost $150,000 to $200,000.
"I think it's essential for (this community)," he said. "My target market is basically a large variety of different people. I'm not catering to the young or old. It's a perfect scenario for people who don't have choices after a certain hour now."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2284.