Marti’s Bar and Grill transformed into “Local,” which features locally-produced food and later hours than most downtown restaurants.

Corporate chef Shaun King, 30, said the makeover will advance the restaurant from typical to unique.

“I like to describe it as upscale bar food with local prices,” King said.

With the addition of late kitchen and bar hours, as late as 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., King anticipates attracting college students who want a downtown hangout area to eat and, with free WiFi, even study. King, who grew up in San Luis Obispo, said while he was in school, he wished there were a place to eat and socialize at night to take a break from studying.

“(Local) is what I wanted — good food late at night,” he said.

He envisions students getting out from a late movie during the week, in want of good food and a modern, comfortable setting to eat, talk and drink wine.

Along with the new hours, Local’s draft system includes six beers on tap, mainly from California breweries — the component General Manager Brad Sturgis, 25, is most excited about.

“It’s a new concept to this town,” Sturgis said.

In accordance with its name, Local uses food from all local vendors including grass-fed beef and meat from Hearst Ranch in San Simeon and green vegetables from Windrose Farms in Paso Robles.

Local remained open during the construction that started about four weeks ago and had its first official “soft opening” last Tuesday night that brought close to 150 customers to its new polished doors.

After a total of only six weeks and $50,000, Sturgis plans to have Local fully operational by Valentine’s Day or soon after.

The outside of the Higuera Street restaurant is painted an orange rust color, the inside a warm cream that emphasizes the dark wooden accents and furniture, the entire visage reminiscent of a Mediterranean theme.

The sets of long tables and stools forecast a style of communal eating King says is integral to the new concept of Local; the “mix, mingle, and share” is the target interaction King, Sturgis and owner Billy Hales want to see in their restaurant.

Their policy of “no hostess, no servers, no reservations” was designed to make the atmosphere more engaging. Consequently, money that would be spent employing hostesses and serves are instead transferred to food costs, maintaining low prices and high quality.

“There really aren’t any restaurants you can get this quality of food with no servers,” Sturgis said.

And by playing artists like Thievery Corporation whose mellow music can be played unnoticed in the background, the atmosphere is easily conducive to conversation.

Despite King’s and Sturgis’s obvious enthusiasm and optimism about the restaurant’s anticipated success, the upscale does come with a downside. Marti’s was a good concept, Sturgis said, but inadequate for their desired clientele.

“Some people still want it to be Marti’s, but with the times changing, we had to adapt,” he said. “It was time for a face lift and a concept change.”

King acknowledges the slight backlash they have received and may soon get, but also feels the change was much needed.

“It’s still a bar, we just serve great, great food,” he said.

Local is open Tuesday and Wednesday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., with the kitchen closed at midnight; Thursday through Saturday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., kitchen closed at 1 a.m.; Sunday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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