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Tina Marie's Downtown Cafe to move into former Chef's Choice 19th and Eye location

Tina Marie Brown has vowed she would stay in downtown Bakersfield, and now it looks like she's going to be able to keep that promise.

The restaurateur, who operated Tina Marie's Downtown Cafe for close to two decades before a destructive fire in December severely damaged it, told The Californian on Tuesday that she has signed a lease to operate at 19th and Eye streets at the current location of Chef's Choice Noodle Bar, whose management announced several weeks ago that they are moving.

"It's kind of like all the puzzle pieces are falling into place," Brown said. "The best part is Tina Marie's downtown gets to stay downtown."

Brown said she still intends to rebuild at her Chester Avenue location — and in that sense, the 19th and Eye business could indeed be temporary.

But she acknowledged it's entirely possible the new restaurant could really take off.

"You never know," she said. "Maybe I'll have two locations."

A destructive fire that started Dec. 12 affected several businesses on the 2000 block of Chester Avenue, including Tina Marie's. Now the building stands completely empty, just walls, no windows, surrounded by temporary chain link fencing.

Is it possible the nightmare could turn into a dream?

Just two blocks southwest, the future awaits.

"A lot of work needs to be done," she said, before she can open to her customers.

Once she takes possession, Brown said, her goal is to be open within 30 days.

"I haven't gotten the keys yet," she said. "I haven't taken occupancy yet — but in my mind, I know everything that needs to be done."

Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.