The long saga of the Lake Merced Boathouse is entering a new phase, as the Recreation and Park Department is deciding whether the building should be turned into a full-service restaurant, a recreational site or a combination of the two.
"It’s been an ongoing debate over the last decade," Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis said. "The [original] vision for the Rec and Park Commission was to develop the Lake Merced area as a destination recreation area."
The 86-year-old plan called for Lake Merced to have an area where residents would have a place to stroll, eat and take part in paid recreation, such as a golf.
For years, the building on the shores of Lake Merced — The City’s man-made lake in the southwest corner of town — served as an actual boathouse, with anglers buying fishing supplies and renting rowboats at the ramshackle site. The building was then spruced up, and for most of the 1980s and through the 1990s it served as a popular sports bar. It closed down two years ago because the owners were not able to maintain the business to the department’s liking, according to Dennis.
"In its heyday, it was a place that local yokels would go watch the game and grab a beer," Dennis said. "It was never a four-star restaurant by any means."
On Tuesday the department hosted a meeting to hear what residents would like to see at the boathouse. Previous suggestions have centered on arestaurant, a recreational facility that would support activities on the lake or an educational center.
The City had conversations with the owner of MoMo’s, the popular eatery across the street from AT&T Park, about a year and a half ago about opening a high-end restaurant at the site, according to Dennis, but the response was lukewarm. The department nonetheless plans to examine the viability of using the site for commercial purposes and present its findings, along with community suggestions, to the Recreation and Park Department Commission next week.
"There aren’t a lot of destination restaurants in that area," Dennis said, adding that the site could possibly be set up like the Cliff House or the Beach Chalet.
Regardless of what the site is used for, it must have some recreational use even if a restaurant is ultimately built there, because the building is under the jurisdiction of the Recreation and Park Department.
There is no timeline for when a final decision could be made.