San Antonio’s trailblazing culinary and cultural destination known as the Pearl is laying out the welcome mat for new ideas.

The marketing department at the Pearl has quietly launched an online tool restaurateurs can use to submit their concepts to fill open food and beverage spots at the former brewery. The effort is part of what Pearl officials refer to as “Pearl 2.0” as the development marks its 17th year.

Available on the Pearl’s website for about a month, the new online submission form and has generated about 15 entries, said Elizabeth Fauerso, chief marketing officer at the Pearl.

“It’s a relatively simple tool that is very similar to what we use currently for farmer’s market submittals,” Fauerso said. “And it’s kind of an experiment, and just to open up the conversation with anyone who has an interest in having a culinary concept at the Pearl. And we obviously have spaces that we’re actively engaged in [marketing] right now.”

A series of restaurant closings at the Pearl have created openings for new concepts. Two of its first eateries – the Sandbar and Il Sogno – closed in 2016 and 2018 – and more recently the Granary has shut its doors.

Fauerso attributed the first round of restaurant closings at the Pearl to a natural restaurant cycle. While some eateries have carved out a long-term presence, such as Cured and Southerleigh, she said, others come and go based on market forces or what the chef or owner wants to do.

Likewise, turnover in food service providers in the Bottling Department’s food hall is intentional. “Every concept there should turn, because the idea there is that it’s invigorated by new concepts coming in and there’s a certain element of it being an incubator,” Fauerso said.

In October, the leaning Boehler’s Bar building, former home of the Liberty Bar restaurant, was relocated from East Josephine Street closer to the main Pearl campus, at Avenue A and East Grayson. It will soon undergo restoration and become available for a new restaurant with outdoor seating, Fauerso said.

A view from the side Boehler’s Liberty Bar building reveals some of the damage and temporary repairs.
The Boehler’s Bar building, which once housed the Liberty Bar, has been moved from its former location on Josephine Street, shown here, to Grayson Street.

In addition, the Pearl is seeking tenants for food and beverage space at the Oxbow and Credit Human headquarters buildings now under construction along Broadway. The street-level space designated for a restaurant at the Oxbow is 2,500 square feet and 4,100 square feet at Credit Human.

“We think it’s important to stimulate an openness that maybe hasn’t been there in the past because we were in the first generation of inventing the Pearl,” Fauerso said. “We were really working with the Culinary Institute [of America] and with chefs that were known to us, versus now, Pearl is known to so many.

“We think it will hopefully cultivate and stimulate some great conversations for now and also looking ahead in the future.”

For now, redevelopment plans for the 70,000-square-foot Samuels Glass building in the Pearl’s backyard are on hold, she said. Pearl developer Silver Ventures, led by Kit Goldsbury, acquired the property in 2015.

“It’s a beautiful building that has such a wonderful feeling and so we know that it will be, to quote Kit when he first was talking about Pearl, ‘something cool,’” Fauerso said. “It’s such a special building and such a special place, we feel a lot of weight in really thinking through what [it] would be.”

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.