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Food & Drink

After Red-Tagging, Planet Fresh Plan for Reopening Unclear

The student standby is still closed 7 weeks later, even though the neighboring Red Restaurant and Red Room reopened in early October

Planet Fresh Gourmet Burritos remains shuttered, after being red-tagged seven weeks ago by city safety inspectors who say the spot is unsafe without needed repairs to the kitchen. Representatives of the business, who asked not to be quoted, say it will reopen. They’re not saying when and remain tight-lipped about the hold-up at the 131-year-old structure.

Magnolia trees shade the building, and a long planter with blooming hibiscus runs the length of it. An old sign still leans out over the corner proclaiming it the Santa Cruz Hotel, a name that’s also still inscribed on decorative upstairs windows.

Planet Fresh opened in 1996 at Locust and Cedar streets in the former hotel. The historic building also houses the Red Restaurant and Bar upstairs, and the dimly lit Red Room.

All three were red-tagged on Sept. 19, after fire department inspectors nearby spotted “gross” violations—including exposed, unsafe wires outside the building—while walking to a new business, Chief Building Official Mark Ellis tells GT in an email.

After repairs, both “Reds” reopened Oct. 5.

The building and all three businesses are all owned by Germaine Akin, who also owns downtown’s 515 Kitchen & Cocktails, as well as Splash and Riva Fish House on the wharf. She acquired Planet Fresh about a year ago, after original owner Fred Henschel “let it go,” according to Henschel’s 27-year-old son, Taylor, who says he has fond memories of working there as a kid.

UCSC student Olivia Stewart says Planet Fresh is “big” with students and was surprised to see it abruptly close. “It’s nice to be able to eat out healthy. I hope it reopens,” she says.

Ellis says conditions at the old hotel building were unusual. Besides problematic electrical wiring, issues included leaking plumbing and clutter in the basement that created a fire hazard.

Ellis says representatives for Akin have asked what improvements are needed at Planet Fresh and that he expects them to submit a plan outlining a kitchen remodel, including new equipment and floor repairs.

Hopefully, it won’t take too long, says Meghan Miller of Monterey, who heads to Planet Fresh whenever she comes to Santa Cruz. “I love the quirkiness. It’s such a neat building, and the food is so good,” Miller says. “It’s a great price for that kind of food.”

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