There are several interesting restaurant stories we’ve been following in our area over the last few weeks…with one long-time favorite leaving, one hoping to hang on by reducing its parking requirement, and one that left our area a while ago, but is now re-emerging in another neighborhood.
First, the big exit: Callender’s Grill (the slightly more upscale version of Marie Callender’s cafes/pie shops), 5773 Wilshire Blvd., will close this weekend after 40 years in that location. The reason for the closing seems to be a proposed rent increase, though that may not be quite the whole story. According to EaterLA and at least several reports on local social media, the property owners asked for a 50% increase during recent lease negotiations. But according to other reports, such as this one in the Beverly Press/Park La Brea News, the original 50% increase was negotiated down to about 30%, which the restaurant had initially said it could meet…but then management decided to close anyway :
“Their rent hasn’t changed in [nearly] 35 years,” Lon Snyder, a partner at [property owner] J.H. Snyder, said, noting that the property’s value had increased over that period. The real estate company proposed raising the restaurant’s rent by 50 percent, which restaurant management rejected, saying they could absorb an approximate 30-percent rent increase. The property owner was willing to work with that negotiated number, Snyder explained, when Callender’s Grill notified the real estate company that they would not be renewing their contract.
“We wanted to renew them,” Snyder said. “They decided on their own accord to not renew.”
Another Miracle Mile restaurant, Rascal, 801 S. La Brea, has applied for a zoning variance to reduce the number of parking spaces required by the city. In the last few years, parking in the general Wilshire-La Brea area has become much harder to find, especially for businesses. In addition to increasing population density (thanks to the opening of many large new apartment complexes), two large surface-level parking lots – one at the old Bank of America on the SW corner of Wilshire and La Brea, and one at the NE corner of Wilshire and Detroit – have been removed to make way for Metro Purple Line subway construction. And some nearby businesses have discovered that at least some customers, frustrated by the parking situation, now avoid the area altogether. Rascal, which is also going through a periodic renewal of its liquor permit, is requesting that its required parking be lowered from 16 “covenant” parking spaces to 14 rented spaces. (The difference is that covenant agreements don’t expire, but covenanted spaces can be reclaimed by the property owner if they need them…while rented spaces are available all the time to the renter during the period of their lease, but return to the owner when the lease expires.) The restaurant, which will continue to use a valet service to connect cars to parking, is also asking community members to sign a petition in support of its request, and to support the application by writing letters to city officials on their behalf. James O’Sullivan, president of the Miracle Mile Residential Association, told the Buzz that the MMRA does support Rascal’s request, and that they recognize that “Parking for all commercial [businesses], especially restaurants, is going to be a huge problem going forward, because we have lost all or most of our parking lots.”
Finally, the Larchmont Bungalow, which closed its space at 107 N. Larchmont Blvd. on August 1, 2017, after a city lawsuit required the business to comply with zoning restrictions or cease operations, looks like it’s about to reappear, in a slightly different form, as the Larchmont Bungalow Cafe, at Sunset and Alvarado in Echo Park. (The Bungalow’s former space on Larchmont is now sporting a “Leased” sign after many months of vacancy…but although there have been several rumors about the new tenant, the Buzz has not yet confirmed the identity of the new leaseholder.)
We’ll continue to follow the developments at all three of these locations.