Hotel Circle’s hidden oasis

Posted: May 12th, 2017 | Features, News, Top Stories | No Comments

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Lot 8 emerges as an outdoor party space

What sat for years as a weed-infested parking lot behind the former Mission Valley Travelodge at 1201 Hotel Circle South has been transformed into a stylish outdoor events venue enclosed by 12-foot-high redwood walls and filled with copious succulents and greenery.

Named Lot 8 after its proximity to Interstate 8, the 4,200-square-foot parcel is now fronted by The Atwood, a modern incarnation of the Travelodge that came under new ownership in 2016.

(l to r) Lot 8 founders Todd Ferrari and Nick Blune and the portable, two-sided bar they converted from a horse trailer (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

The project is the brainchild of Nick Brune, a chef and events producer who owns Eco Caters and co-founded the former Local Habit restaurant in Hillcrest. He has also helped organize the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and currently runs the roving dinner series, SoundBite, in which he pairs multi-course meals to music at random restaurants.

Lot 8 will become the new home for those dinners while serving as a unique venue for weddings, corporate parties, fundraisers and public food-related events — with a maximum capacity for 300 people.

Brune teamed up with business partner Todd Ferrari, who manages The Atwood through Urban Hospitality Group. He also co-owns Urban Boutique Hotel in Little Italy, as well as Gaslamp Tavern and Quad Alehouse above it.

In addition, the project is supported by John Carey, owner of Platinum Event Rentals.

“I’ve had a business plan for an urban events space like this for five years,” Brune said. “When Todd brought me to the rundown parking lot six months ago, I knew we could create our own oasis here.”

An artist rendering of Lot 8 (Courtesy of Lot 8)

The team broke ground in February and work was largely completed by May 11 for its first private event.

Black asphalt became the flooring, which is surrounded by a $60,000 redwood fence they stained as a lustrous backdrop for hundreds of succulents growing from wall planters, old tires and soil beds.

Most unique is an old horse trailer Brune purchased from an East County farm, a permanent fixture inside Lot 8 that he turned into an L-shaped bar capable of accommodating two bartenders.

In keeping with his ethos of using reclaimed materials, Brune’s treatment of old tires extends to a tower of them painted in various colors as additional vessels for low-water flora.

For the kitchen, which will be run exclusively by Eco Caters, a 45-foot metal shipping container was incorporated into the spacious layout.

(l to r) Todd Ferrari and Nick Brune incorporated painted tires to showcase succulents. (Photos by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

Brune’s culinary repertoire is extensive. A native of Louisiana, he gained restaurant experience in New Orleans before launching Eco Caters, which has branches also in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. From hors d’oeuvres and casual fare to haute cuisine and desserts, he can fuel appetites for any type of function.

While Lot 8 provides tables and chairs for up to 130 guests as well as retractable shade cloth and overhead string lighting, renters can customize the open space with additional seating and décor, temporary flooring or audio-visual components supplied by outside companies.

Either way, the space is designed to transform guests into an aesthetically enhanced haven that feels far removed from its urban surroundings.

“It’s not attached to The Atwood and we wanted to keep it completely separate as its own entity,” Ferrari noted. “When you’re in there, you can’t see the hotel or freeway — just the palm trees, the hill behind it and the sky.”

Framed living walls adorn Lot 8’s interior.

Barely visible from the street, Brune says the exterior might potentially stand out a bit more once the fast-growing passion fruit vines that were recently planted dominate the front landscaping.

Through at least 2017, the cost for renting Lot 8 in 12-hour increments is $2,500 Monday through Thursday; $3,850 on Fridays and Sundays; and $4,500 on Saturdays.

“Forever I’ve wanted to do a venue like this and had no idea how to go about it. Nick had the plan for a long time and over the course of a few months we made it work. It turned out better than we hoped it would,” Ferrari added.

For more information or to book an event, call 858-246-6129 or visit

—Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his local writing career as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. Reach him at

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