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18 Apr 2012

A Pre-Opening Q&A with JP23 BBQ & Smokehouse

Author: mmclaughlin | Filed under: local Business

A lot of you have been wondering, what’s going on with the old CHERCH restaurant space at the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Commonwealth Ave. We’ve known there were plans for a new restaurant, and then earlier this year a fire at the location. Everyone has been speculating.

But we’re now happy to bring you an exclusive Q&A with Jacob Poozhikala, owner of JP23, the new restaurant that will open soon at 101 S. Harbor Blvd. in downtown.

iF: Tell us a little about the owners of JP23.

JP: There are two partners, Myself, Jacob Poozhikala and Keith Denamur. Keith has been working as a server at Disneyland’s Blue Bayou for 20 years. He is going to bring his extensive knowledge and experience to JP23 daily operations. Myself, I have been an chronic entrepreneur for about 15 years. I moved here from Canada in 2003 to open up a neighborhood grocery store in Anaheim. I have since opened a second one close to Disneyland, I recently sold the original one. I have my hands in a few websites as well.

iF: How did you come to be in Fullerton?
JP: I wasn’t planning on opening JP23, I was going to relax and spend time with the family. Then, one evening, I went out to downtown Fullerton for some drinks and saw the for lease sign at the outside of the vacant CHERCH building. I said to myself, “why in the world is that place empty?” I called the building owner the next day and after two months of negotiations we signed the lease.

iF: What kind of place is JP23 going to be?
JP: We hired a young executive chef, a graduate from Cordon Blue, and we had an original idea. But as we started remodeling, somebody mentioned the word BBQ and how there is no good BBQ location in DTF. I conducted some market research, and by asking around found that everybody was so infatuated with a BBQ & smokehouse in DTF. At this stage, we decide to just go with it. BBQ it is! Chef went to work and created a fantastic menu and I was also able to throw in a couple of international BBQ plates as well.

iF: Is it true you’re going to be open and serving food late?
JP: We knew (from my earlier years of partying) that DTF lacked an after hours spot for people to sober up and get some grub and a place to sit down a be able to mingle with their friends a little more. We amended the Conditional Use Permit with the city and we now have permission to stay open until 4 AM. (The late dinner menu is still a work in progress.) It will be a BBQ Fusion. Like BBQ pulled pork tacos on homemade fresh tortillas.

iF: How bad did the fire earlier this year set you back?
JP: Our original opening day was going to be February 1st and Superbowl would have been our coming out party. Staff of over 40 people were hired, re-modeling was right on schedule. January 11th we were there ’till midnight, locked up the restaurant and went home after months of long days. I was woken up the following morning from 100 different people. The fire had occurred at the property. The entire dining area and offices had to be completely demolished. We had over 40 LED TVs that were damaged with the fire and 50 Tablets & iPads for all the servers.

iF: What is the new opening date?
JP: We are building it back up. All the smoke is cleared, literally. It gives us about three months to get everything up and running again. Buying new TVs, tablets, and hopefully everything will be completed by late June this year.

iF: What can you say about people worrying about it being CHERCH version 2.0?
JP: I have been hearing about Cherch’s mistakes since the minute I took over. So trust me, we are nothing like Cherch. When you meet me you’ll know that I am not swanky or high brow. But my decor will be nice. Nice decor doesn’t necessarily equate to swanky. Its the owners’ and employees’ attitude that creates a warm, inviting environment. Prices will be mid-teens to mid-twenties. And, we will have an 8-foot smoker on the Patio! Our target market is NOT the drinking college crowd. We are trying to cater to the “other” crowd.

iF: Anything else you’d like to tell us?
JP: After being “around” the area since October, I have had the opportunity to meet tons of local Fullertonians and we are excited to get this project on track. The location, as I am sure everybody in Fullerton is well aware, is the exact corner where Fullerton started. We are looking forward to being the anchor to the [downtown area] and the SOCO district. And we are welcomed and we are humbled by the opportunity.

So there you have it! Hope that will hold you over until we can bring you a look inside closer to their opening date!

3 Responses to “A Pre-Opening Q&A with JP23 BBQ & Smokehouse”

  1. Great interview, thank you for all the info!

    I just have one question: early in the piece JP said that DTF needs a late night ‘sober up’ place to hang out from 2-4am then near the end said that the “target market is NOT the drunk college crowd, it’s the OTHER ground”. I’m not sure I’m following. Also, if the target is college kids, the mid teens to mid twenties menu items will not be desirable.

    I am VERY much in favor of another great restaurant in DTF and I’ve spoken to the owners and others involved and they seem to be nice and in favor of a better downtown Fullerton. Only time will tell if that is a fact or if they are after big alcohol sales like so many others downtown- I’m cautiously optimistic!

  2. Dear Joel, I am happy that you are optimistic about our new restaurant (although cautiously!). With JP23 we intend to create a brand. The student crowd is dominating at certain hours but focusing on this demographic would be a disaster for profitability. The late hour menu, is positive for the city. When mentioned, it has been actually creating a lot of buzz, among both older and younger demographics. One example, are the hundreds of employees that work hard in the restaurant/bar industry in DTF. They have a place to go chill after they leave work. This would be like their after work hangout. The patrons allowed into the restaurant during the late hours will be controlled, as this would be in the best interest of the restaurant. Your feedback is important to us and we look forward to chatting with you once the restaurant opens. thank you.

  3. Thank you for the response! I appreciate the added info.
    I’m looking forward to the opening!