Openings and Closings in WeHo’s Restaurant Roulette

Mon, May 12, 2014   By Staff    14 Comments

In West Hollywood’s never-ending game of restaurant roulette, bets are being made on a number of new establishments (and hedged on at least one old one with a change of menu and chef.)

Perhaps the most notable (at least in the online world of celebrity gossip) is reality TV star Lisa Vanderpump’s opening of P.U.M.P. on what has become known as the city’s “cursed corner.” The corner, 8948 Santa Monica Boulevard at Robertson, has been home to Java Detour, Voodoo Room, Gozar and Kachina Grill, to name establishments of the last few years.

P.U.M.P. is set to open for dinner (with an Italian / Mediterranean menu) on Thursday. The opening hasn’t been hindered by a lawsuit filed against Vanderpump and Todd and the owners of the property. In the suit, still on the Los Angeles Superior Court docket, two former employees of The Abbey allege that the owner of the property promised to help them open a sports bar on the location but reneged and did a deal with Vanderpump instead. Recent filings in Los Angeles Superior Court allege that a series of misrepresentations by property owner Elie Samaha.

The Pizza Joint

The Pizza Joint

There’s also a possible closing in WeHo’s Boystown. TPJ (The Pizza Joint) opened in December at 8729 Santa Monica Blvd. between Gym Bar and Five Guys (the location of the former Fruits Produce Bar). It now is listed for sale on the Loopnet real estate site. TPJ currently is seeking city permission to sell alcohol as well as food.

Further east, Thomas Schoos’ Beach Nation, on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard at Sweetzer, is set for a “soft” opening on May 21 and a formal opening May 28. Beach Nation will offer drinks and light food on a white sand-covered patio facing Santa Monica Boulevard. If you close your eyes, you can fantasize that you’re hearing the waves on Santa Monica Beach rather than the never ending flow of traffic on SMB. Beach Nation is near Don’t Tell Mama’s, the restaurant and piano that occupied Schoos’ former O Bar space until its closing Monday.

On Santa Monica Boulevard at Formosa, Formosa Cafe is welcoming a new chef after a brief venture by Red Med to revamp the menu of the ’50s Hollywood hangout. Red Med signed on in January to offer a Vietnamese-inspired menu. But a disagreement with Formosa management ended that in April. Now new chef Brian Huskey is developing an Asian and Latin menu that will debut late next month.

On Melrose Avenue at Fairfax, Andres Izquieta and Mike Shab have opened Fala LA as what they are calling an “answer to our fast food nation.” Fala, 7751 1/2 Melrose Ave. in the space formerly occupied by Tomato Pie Pizza, does offer fast food, but not what you’ll find at Micky D’s. Its menu — which includes falafel and salads — caters to the “vegan, diet conscious, allergy restricted, lactose intolerant, healthy and wellness gurus” that make up a substantial part of the WeHo population.

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14 Comments

  1. Todd BiancoMon, May 12, 2014 at 6:57 am

    I wouldn’t be surprised if TPJ closed by the time anyone reads this article. We ate there last week on a warm day at lunchtime. The restaurants up and down Santa Monica Blvd were busy – even 5 Guys – which itself is an under performing location. We were the only patrons and no one else sat down during our entire lunch. We ordered a pizza (which is what they do). They didn’t have sausage or meatballs prepared, so we had to modify our request. We ordered ice tea (not an unusual request) and while they had brewed the tea, they didn’t have fake sugar (you know, stuff in blue, pink, yellow or green packs). The waiter (sweet kid, fresh off the turnip truck) had to sneak some from The Coffee Bean for us.

    We ate there a couple months ago for the first time. Pretty good pizza for a fair price, and that’s why we went back. But even then, we were only one of two tables occupied. Given that it’s in a seemingly cursed building with very little business, it’s hard to believe they’ve lasted this long. Then again, they may have been granted an initial 6 month rent holiday which expires this month and there’s no way they can bleed anymore cash.

  2. El FuturoMon, May 12, 2014 at 7:51 am

    You’d never think when walking by that TPJ that it’s a pizza joint. It looks like a dark Chinese or Japanese sushi place. The black painted building, dark windows/interior and ridiculous velvet ropes don’t help.

    The employees of the always empty former Fruits Produce Bar (whatever that was) use to hang around outside in the patio area texting all day.

    All this makes me nostalgic for the old bird store.

  3. JohnjxMon, May 12, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I find the huge graphic of a man and woman hugging in TPJ to be less than gay-friendly and somewhat off-putting. I guess they are going for that “La Dolce Vita” vibe, but come on- next to Gym bar? Maybe if they added a few dancing boys….

  4. kab1200Mon, May 12, 2014 at 11:28 am

    The corner where Pump is going, used to be called Tacos Tacos, and it was there for years and years and did a very good business, so not sure why this corner is considered cursed.

  5. JohnjxMon, May 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Agreed. Memories are short. Who else remembers when the Fiesta Cantina space was also considered “cursed” due to the rapid turnover of shops and restaurants in that location? And look at it now.

  6. mike dunnMon, May 12, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    It’s amazing that no one has looked across the street and attempted to fallow the business plan of Hamburger Haven. It’s been there for ever under the same family ownership.

    And speaking of hamburgers, what’s Beach Nation going to do with the Hamburger stand where Irve’s was located before they were forced out with a huge increase in rent?

  7. JEFF YORKTue, May 13, 2014 at 6:54 am

    It seems West Hollywood is becoming a Century City combined with food truck cafes.

  8. El FuturoTue, May 13, 2014 at 7:46 am

    We need a Rubio’s or a Panda Express!

  9. Todd BiancoTue, May 13, 2014 at 10:03 am

    @El Futuro – the old Pavilions had a Panda Express. I was told that it didn’t return to the new one because Safeway wanted far too much money. That’s why it took so long to lease the shops in the car park and they’ve never leased the 2nd floor space above the SE corner of Pavilions.

    I’m not sure how Hamburger Habit has been able to hold out for so long. Perhaps they own the land or the landlord is waiting for a huge payday (like the owner of the car wash at Olympic & Figueroa that just sold for $25 million).

    @JohnJX As you know, the space currently occupied by Fiesta Cantina had a long list of failed restaurants. Fiesta used The Abbey’s trick: Turn a restaurant with liquor license into a bar with a kitchen and somehow make the ABC believe that more than half of its gross revenue is from food not booze. Ditto for St. Felix.

  10. mike dunnTue, May 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Todd Bianco
    Hamburger Haven stays open because they are busy all day. And during special events in West Hollywood they are packed. No attitude, just good food at a reasonable price.

  11. kab1200Tue, May 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    The difference between the Abbey and Fiesta Cantina is that more people are eating and drinking at Fiesta Cantina than at the Abbey

  12. Todd BiancoTue, May 13, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    @Mike Dunn – I like Hamburger Haven. But these days, the value of the real estate often outweighs the enterprise/business value. So many other prime locations have been sold to developers, I’m just surprised this one has held out for so long. Hell, I wish Tacos Tacos was back. I’d much rather have another affordable option than P.U.M.P. (which I’ll be surprised if it lasts any longer than its reality show).

  13. mike dunnTue, May 13, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Todd Bianco
    Before Taco Taco there was an inexpensive Italian Take Out there. If you talk to the owner of Hamburger Haven he will be able to tell you how many years it was in business. It’s like many sucessful businesses that are sold, the new owner is sure he knows how to do it better, only to fail big time.

    Years ago I worked in a liquor store that did enormous business especially during Christmas. Three cash registers and delivering in our own cars, the bosses cars and two delivery trucks. I delivered gifts in not only L.A. County but Ventura and Orange as well. Because the owners thought they deserved huge salaries they ended up selling it. The new owners knew nothing about the business and drove it into the ground. About a year ago I stopped there to buy a coke on Christmas Eve. No one in the store except the one guy behind the counter. The wine celler had been removed and what was left was filled with cheap crap.

  14. mike dunnTue, May 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    What happened to the ABC forbidding the establihment of too many alcohol selling businesses? I remember Food Giante, a long gone super market chain, being denied a off sale license because there were four liquor stores on Hillhurst Ave.

    The way it is now at Santa Monica and Robertson one can crawl from the Abby to Here, around the corner to Pump, then to the Mother Load and finally Cooneys. Maybe their hoping a milk shake down a few doors will sober them up.

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