By Camas Frank ~
Back on Sept. 15, 2015 the SLO City Council voted unanimously to approve Discovery SLO, a large entertainment complex right at the heart of Downtown.
Occupying several levels inside the old Sports Authority at Chorro and Marsh, the space has been stripped down and readied for renovation. The only sign of the building’s last incarnation is a tattered strip of tape with the Sports Authority logo on the concrete floor of a basement stockroom. If all goes according to plan, that bare room will soon be a cozy little speakeasy bar, albeit one with 14 bowling lanes and a concert venue just above it.
Aside from a Facebook post on the Discovery SLO page in November 2015 saying, “It’s been fun navigating the approval requirements. Finally got the one that lets us start transforming 1144 Chorro St. into SLO’s premier entertainment destination,” Jeremy Pemberton, managing partner in charge of Discovery SLO has been pretty quite about the project publicly.
That was, he explained, kind an instinct to keep his head down until the company was ready to unveil something big, literally.
“Basically, yeah,” said Pemberton, “I was keeping my head down while we figured out the best facility possible going into a 25 year lease and putting in the best technology that we can at the moment to last.”
The evening after the Feb. 25, Good Morning SLO event put on by the Chamber of Commerce, Pemberton was planning to let everyone know what the Pemberton brothers have come up with in the interim (Jeremy’s twin brother Joshua is running their Ventura location).
Discovery SLO is hosting a private event with many of the same attendees for a sneak peak at the property. As of press time they had 94 RSVPs from local business leaders.
The conditions of the use permit have been public knowledge for some time, including: a bowling alley split between upstairs and downstairs, a restaurant and several bars of varying sizes with a nightclub, mezzanine observation levels with games, concert stage and associated VIP lounges all capable of accommodating just over 1,100 people at max capacity.
What wasn’t in the public documents are other touches details that could make or break the concept: such as providing amenities for national touring acts onsite; forming a relationship with a local chef for a tailored menu; incorporating all entertainment, bar and restaurant services into a smartphone app for use on and off site; or on the flipside, lockers to put your phone on charge before entering the speakeasy.
If it all sounds a little overwhelming, Pemberton assures that they’re in no way they’re trying to bring a casino atmosphere to SLO.
“Honestly, anyone I’ve actually explained our approach and design to wants it,” he said. “I love it here. I live here. There’s no way we would go against the heritage of the area and the local flavor.”
The designs call for extensive use of repurposed wood, a popular blend of modern and wine country aesthetic with art pieces throughout commissioned from local artists.
For the moment, masking tape and paper labels mark the layout envisioned, but once construction begins Pemberton said, they expect it to move quickly towards a Summer 2016 opening.