The town of Oro Valley last week officially became the owner of an operating restaurant, The Overlook, that’s been at the center of political conflict for months.
In December the Town Council voted 4-3 in favor of buying the El Conquistador Country Club for $1 million. The deal included a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for the since-completed renovations to turn the club into a community center that is open to the public. The purchase agreement included a golf course, tennis facilities and the restaurant inside the club.
The town bought the property from Tucson-based HSL Properties, which acquired the Hilton resort with the intent of splitting off those entities and selling them to the town for $1 million paid over three years. The market value of the property had initially been appraised at $3.25 million.
After the purchase agreement was signed in late April, an Oro Valley citizens group initiated the recall of the four members who voted to approve the purchase: Mayor Satish Hiremath and council members Lou Waters, Mary Snider and Joe Hornat. All four will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot, defending their seats against five challengers.
The incumbents have been vocal throughout their campaigns in defending the purchase, repeatedly saying that citizens have been asking for a community center and gathering place since the mid-’90s.
However, challengers Steve Didio, Ryan Hartung and Shirl Lamonna have all argued that by the town owning The Overlook, it’s directly competing with privately owned businesses in Oro Valley.
“I don’t believe that by the town owning a restaurant that we will put other restaurants out of business,” Hiremath said. “If that was the case then we wouldn’t have as many restaurants locally as we do now, would we?”
The town is operating the facilities with Troon, an international management company that handles golf destinations such as the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa.
In addition to all food and beverage services at the center, Troon is handling golf and tennis operations, said Misti Nowak, communications administrator for the town.
Projected annual operating expenses for food and beverage — which includes The Overlook, Garden Cafe, food carts and all catering and banquet services — is $847,500, Nowak said.
The projected annual revenue for food and beverage services is $850,000, netting the town an annual profit of $2,500.
The restaurant, formerly called La Vista, was part of the Hilton El Conquistador country club, 10555 N. La Cañada Drive.
“This restaurant has been a key component for our community since the club’s opening more than 30 years ago,” Nowak said in an email.
“When the town took ownership of the facility, we wanted to continue offering our residents, members and guests a place to gather and dine.”
Dave Perry, president and CEO of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the restaurant will compete with others in town no matter who the owner is.
“Oro Valley has more than 60 restaurants,” he said in an email. “When the property was operated by Hilton, it was competing with local businesses, and continues to do so. In that regard, little has changed.”
Perry said Troon is a dues-paying member of the chamber.
In the process of turning the club into a community center, the town made significant renovations to the restaurant, replacing carpets with dark wood floors, installing new booths and reconstructing ramps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The 5,282-square-foot restaurant features high ceilings and a loft-like view overlooking the golf course and surrounding Santa Catalina Mountains. About half of the space is taken up by the bar, which has five flat-screen TVs.
The team brought on Executive Chef Robert Kaslly, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate who recently managed the culinary program at the adult community Restaurants at SaddleBrooke.
His menu features classic American dishes with a gourmet touch, such as warm steak salad and pepper jack chicken with calabacitas (a Mexican squash dish) blend.
The restaurant, which is open to the public, closes at 6 p.m. most nights, with dinner service Thursdays through Saturdays until 8 p.m.
Tom Meade, who runs the food and beverage program at the restaurant, says The Overlook stands out from other local businesses and offers something new.
“We have the best views in town,” he said. “The restaurant is part of the community center, so you can literally come in and take a swim and hit the locker room and come upstairs and enjoy braised beef tacos for lunch.”
Meade said the large size of the restaurant makes it ideal for parties and banquets.
During a restaurant preview recently, Hiremath praised the council for its work in opening the restaurant.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4191. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt
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