Regular patrons at The Mark, an upscale eatery in downtown Bakersfield, will be noticing some major changes to the historic establishment within the next few months.
The building on 19th Street, which once was a horse stable at the turn of the 20th century, is under new ownership, having been sold for $1.2 million to Bryan Oberg and his wife Mikela. To help improve the property, Oberg said he plans on bringing back a lunch program, changing up the dinner menu, providing more live entertainment and more.
“I just think it’s a great, cool place,” Oberg said. “I would hate to see it turn into a Denny’s or something like that.”
The fine-dining establishment, with its period decor, was originally built in 1900 and has changed hands many times over the years. it was once occupied by Goose Loonies and Victor Victoria's. Most recently, it was owned by partners Lee Merek, Mark Hamilton and Marshall Lewis, who made renovations to the inside of the restaurant to reflect the aesthetics of the 1900s time period.
While closing on the property happened just this week, the Obergs have been running the business for the past couple of weeks and have begun making changes.
Some of the biggest changes will be on the menu and with restaurant hours. Currently, The Mark has the bar open from 4 to 10 p.m. each day and dinner is offered from 5 to 9 p.m. However, that's inconvenient for some customers, he said.
“We have people coming in for a beer and then they want to order food at 4:30 and they can’t. We’re going to change that,” he said.
Oberg said the plan is to offer dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. He’s also looking to add a lunch program from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The bar also will be open during that time, he said.
“We know that in the downtown area, we’re dealing with a consumer base that has an hour lunch,” he said. “We have to be able to turn food around in about half an hour.”
Oberg said the lunch menu largely will consist of more casual food, although there will be an option for more complicated meals for those who have more time, such as meals including steak.
Oberg said he also wants to create an app where customers who are on a time crunch can order and pay for their meal ahead of time, then come in and eat right away.
The dinner menu will be changing a bit as well. Oberg said about half of the items on the current menu will stay. Several new dishes will be offered, such as cheese-stuffed tortellini and crab-stuffed shrimp. Some old favorites will be returning to the menu, including bacon-wrapped meatloaf.
Oberg said he also wants to beef up The Mark’s live music offerings. He intends to bring more local and outside entertainment to the bar as well as in The Park at The Mark, an outside area next to the building.
“We’re going to make sure that during nice times of the year we have entertainment out there,” he said. “We want entertainment every Friday night out there when there’s nice weather.”
Another goal is to create an entrance to the bar through the patio so customers don’t have to go through the restaurant, Oberg said. Some aesthetic changes also are planned for the inside of the building, but he said he’s not sure yet what he wants to do.
Oberg said he became interested in The Mark as a complement to one of his other businesses, the wedding venue, The Iron Lily, on 24th Street. The venue is set to open this fall.
“I was looking for somewhere I could run some of the catering and the liquor for the venue,” he said. “It seemed like a good fit for what was on the market at the time.”
Oberg said the Iron Lily can cater to large groups of up to 550, but he wanted a place where he could serve smaller groups of 150 or less instead of having to refer people to another business, as well as somewhere he could get the liquor for events.
Unlike other owners, Oberg said he and his wife plan to be involved in the daily operation of The Mark. Already, he said running the property these past couple of weeks has been overwhelming for him.
“I’m used to running a business that’s just a couple people,” he said. “This is a new realm for me. We have 30-plus employees here. It’s like going from the Little Leagues to Triple-A. I need to learn to delegate better.”
Oberg said that while there are some significant challenges, he believes everything will work out.
“There’s a lot to do, but I think we have a good team in place,” he said.