MODESTO — Sally Lara says she waited for years for someone to buy the Yosemite Boulevard building she owns, which once was the home of Cote d'Oro, one of Modesto's finest restaurants during its heyday more than a quarter-century ago and a favorite spot for E.&J. Gallo Winery executives.
Lara said she and other family members are at the building every week to pick up the trash, broken bottles and other debris the homeless and others leave. The family has had to fix windows that were smashed and paint over graffiti scrawled on the building's walls.
"For six years," Lara said, "I had it for sale, and no one wanted it."
But now that Lara is selling the building to Dollar General so the retailer can demolish it and put up a store, many in the community are expressing their disappointment that another building with ties to Modesto's past faces the wrecking ball.
Since The Bee wrote about the plans to raze the yellow building with the distinctive turret Monday, residents have called and emailed The Bee, and two spoke at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
Lara says she understands why so many people have a soft spot for the building, but added that a Dollar General store would be an improvement for that section of Yosemite, which has seen better days.
"I'm as romantic as anyone else," she said. "I love old buildings. But Dollar General would be a good fit for that area."
Cote d'Oro operated from 1964 until 1987. During its prime, it was one of the few restaurants in Modesto where diners could enjoy an upscale, elegant meal. After Cote d'Oro closed, the building was home to Alfonzo's El Castillo. The building has been vacant since Lara closed El Castillo six years ago.
But the 88-year-old building has a colorful past.
Some say it was a hide-out during Prohibition for customers at the neighboring Tower Club, then a speakeasy and now the Eagles Hall. When Prohibition agents showed up at the Tower Club, customers escaped through a tunnel that led to the restaurant's basement. And before Cote d'Oro, the building was home to The Wagon Wheel, The Castle and Fusco's Castle.
As part of gaining city approval for the project, city officials required the developer to have the building evaluated for its historical significance. The consultant determined that the building was not historically significant.
The project had to go before the city because the developer needed a zoning change to put in a parking lot behind the building. The rear of the property had been zoned for homes.
Construction of the Dollar General store, including demolition of the former restaurant, is expected to start in February or March and take about five months.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.