Three years after Rusty’s Pizza Parlor announced its exit from the lighthouse building at 15 E. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara, the iconic site is preparing for its next tenant.
Bluewater Grill, a seafood restaurant with seven locations across Southern California and one in Phoenix, is slated to open there in mid-2017.
“Unlike 99 percent of other restaurants, including seafood restaurants, we have our own commercial license, so we can buy directly from the fishermen, whereas most people have to buy through a distributor,” said Jimmy Ulcickas, who founded the Bluewater Grill 20 years ago with friend Richard Staunton.
Their friends Adam and Andrew Firestone and David Walker — of Firestone Walker Brewing Co. fame — are also among the new establishment’s owners.
Santa Barbara has a prominent and regionally important fishing industry, Ulcickas said. Both he and Staunton are avid fishermen who fish the around the Channel Islands and the Santa Barbara Harbor on the restaurant’s own swordfish harpoon boat.
“There’s a huge tradition of commercial fishermen who fish the Channel Islands, and they either come into Channel Islands Harbor or Ventura or Santa Barbara,” he said. “A lot of that stuff just stays in the general area and some of it makes its way to Los Angeles and other places.”
In addition to up to 40 varieties of seafood, the restaurant will offer local wines and chef’s tasting events. Lunch and dinner will be served on two floors.
With so few restaurant openings along the waterfront, Ulcickas said he and Staunton have been looking for opportunities to open a place in Santa Barbara for over a decade. They and the other parties in the lease were represented by Michael Martz and Greg Bartholomew of Hayes Commercial Group.
If all the site’s construction and tenant improvements go according to plan, he added, Bluewater Grill will open next to Stearns Wharf sometime around May, June or July.