RSF Golf Club, Association begin plans to liven up clubhouse restaurant

The RSF Golf Club clubhouse and restaurant is open to all Covenant residents.

The Rancho Santa Fe Association and RSF Golf Club have agreed to commit $80,000 toward refining design plans for a clubhouse restaurant refresh, working toward the RSF Association board’s goal of serving more non-golf club members and creating a central gathering place. The RSF Association board’s vote for its $40,000 share of the funding was 5-2, with Vice President Sharon Ruhnau and Director Laurel Lemarie opposed.

At the May 6 meeting, Bill Johnson, co-chair of the joint restaurant committee, said the clubhouse renovation project has been a long time in the making, starting over four years ago with a member survey.

“Almost everybody surveyed was displeased with the interior of the Ranch clubhouse,” Johnson said. “The most common comment was that it reminded them of an old people’s home.”

The golf club tapped Ocio Design Group to come up with some ways to liven up the space. Ocio’s proposed concepts include an expanded patio with lots of greenery, dramatic lights and opening glass walls in both dining areas to better connect the inside with the outside. The “cafeteria look” of the main dining room is eliminated—rather than a lot of tables and chairs that all look the same, Ocio proposed a mix of tables, booths and moveable banquettes with a central focal point of a wraparound bar.

The renderings showed the old carpeting being replaced with new modern textiles and wood flooring, and the space brightened up with whitewashed beams, overhead planters and decorative lighting pendants.

The entrance to the restaurant was also proposed to be moved to the front of the clubhouse building.

Johnson said that excitement had built around the design but the project was set aside due to the pandemic and the course renovation that began last month. Johnson said he believes the club is in the position to start construction in late 2022—the $80,000 will allow the club to start preparing construction documents and begin the necessary permitting process that includes Art Jury review and RSF Association board approval.

RSF Association Director Rick Sapp, co-chair of the joint committee, said just like for the RSF Connect fiber optic network, there are a number of stages the project still needs to go through before it is “shovel ready”: “There will be no skipping of any of the standard steps that we go through for these kinds of things,” he said of the process which will include the final cost determination and how it will be financed.

Johnson said there will likely be town hall meetings to better inform the community about the project.

Holly Manion, a 35-year golf club member, shared her concerns about the modern style of the design as well as the potential cost in written public comment.

She said since 2008 she has been paying a monthly assessment relating to the loan required to build the $6.9 million Players Clubhouse. Manion said she was initially told that assessment would be paid off in six years but after 13 years she is still paying on it. Repayment of the loan is expected to be complete in 2027.

“I believe before any more money is spent for additions, remodels, redesigns or any other capital improvements to either clubhouse, the original loan for the Players Clubhouse should be paid off,” Manion said.

The joint committee, colloquially called the “3 by 3”, formed in December 2018 and was tasked with the potential renovation of the clubhouse and restaurant and overseeing the operational aspects of the restaurant. The committee includes three members from the RSF Association board and three members from the RSF Golf Club board: Sapp, Ruhnau and Tyler Seltzer represent the RSF Association and Johnson, Deb Gustafson and Steve Dunn represent the RSF Golf Club. Ruhnau is the only committee member who is not a member of the club.

In 2019, the RSF Association board approved an agreement to share the cost of running the restaurant, at the recommendation of the joint committee. The amount of the cost share is based on costs expected to be incurred by the food and beverage operations and revised each year.

For the first year, the RSF Association’s exposure was limited to a fixed amount of $300,000 and they stayed within that fixed amount for the following 2020-21 budget. However, according to RSF Association Chief Financial Officer Seth Goldman, for the 2021-22 budget the restaurant operating loss has increased to $995,029, increasing the RSF Association’s shared cost to $470,934.

The increased amount also reflects higher personnel costs due to the increase in the minimum wage and the inclusion of an administrative allocation for accounting and human resources. The sharing amount could also be adjusted pending the hiring of a new golf club manager.

This past year about 36% meals of the restaurant’s meals were sold to non-golfers and 64% to golfers, however, Goldman said it was an atypical environment influenced by the pandemic. The restaurant wasn’t operating in full capacity and they lost the revenue stream of non-golf members using the club for private events and celebrations.

In her comments, Lemarie said she did not agree with the cost-sharing agreement nor did she approve of the makeup of the joint committee.

“We keep calling it a 3 by 3 and it’s actually a 5 by 1 committee,” Lemarie said. “Seventy-seven percent of us are non golfers…If you want non-golfers’ money to pay for your restaurant, we should have a committee that more reflects a portion of the community.”

Sapp said while he is a golf club member, he is also an elected board member and on the joint committee he takes the perspective of those he was elected to represent and serve.

“I am a pretty tough cookie when it comes to the whole process here and I do not favor myself or any golf club member in determining what I think is the correct way to go,” Sapp said. “I would appreciate a little trust and confidence that this is not some kind of cabal.”

In seeing the budget numbers for this year, Director Greg Gruzdowich suggested that the RSF Association and golf club explore different options so that the restaurant does not run at a continual loss, such as considering a food minimum which has had a positive impact at other golf clubs.