Café d’Etoile, Another WeHo Boystown Institution, Has Announced that It’s Closing

The exterior of Cafe D’Etoile offers patrons lunch and dinner al fresco. (Photo by Michael Jortner)

Tom Doherty bought it in 1993 with $150,000 charged to credit cards by him and his brother and turned it into an institution in West Hollywood’s Boystown. Now, 26 years later, Café d’Etoile has closed.

Doherty announced the Sunday closing in a post on Facebook late last night. “With a very heavy heart, we are sorry to announce that after 36 years we are closing our doors. With rising costs from food, drinks, and labor, it is no longer financially viable to remain open.

“We want to thank all of our customers throughout the years that have stood by us through thick and thin. We could not have done it without you. We also can’t leave out our amazing staff that put in so much to keep it

going and to make the Café such an iconic place to visit in West Hollywood. We wish them the best and know that they will do well wherever they go.

We hope that whatever replaces Café D’Etoile in the future can not only live up to our customers’ expectations but can exceed them!”

The closing of Café d’Etoile, which is located at 8941 Santa Monica Blvd. between Hilldale and North Robertson, is the second of a major institution that is part of the gay nightlife and entertainment district known as Boystown. Last month, LASC, the gay-oriented apparel store at 8592 Santa Monica Blvd. operated by Don Zuidema and his partners Mike McGinley and Alfredo Izaguirre, closed its doors after being in business at various Westside locations since 1983. Zuidema cited the impact on LASC of online retailing and increases in commercial rents and operating overhead. “West Hollywood continues to morph into a center for a new wave of urban living and 21st Century businesses,” he said.

Cafe D’Etoile owner Tom Doherty. (Photo by Michael Jortner)

By early this morning, the announcement on Facebook of Café d’Etoile’s had attracted more than 50 comments from customers saddened by the news.

“No no no! I was just there on Sunday. Where oh where will I get the best calamari ever? When I first saw this my first thought was oh it’s April Fools’ Day, but then I realize we are in September. This is sad, sad devastating news. Thank you, thank you, thank you for many years of fabulous food and fabulous cocktails,” was one. Another commenter wrote: “What sad news. Your place was the one spot in WeHo that could be counted on to not only be consistent with great food and drink, but for the atmosphere of welcome and warmth where friends would joyfully meet. You will be missed. Thank you for so many years of great memories.”

Café D’Étoile was already an established restaurant when Doherty got a tip from a friend that the place may come up for sale. “It was an absolute sh—t hole,” Doherty said in an interview published in WEHOville in 2017. “It was just dirty and gross. [But] it did have clientele.”

“In the 1950s it was a bar with a pool table – The Barrel,” Doherty said. “Late ‘60s it became L’Etoile, a sort of very high-end French restaurant.” And in 1983 it was renamed Café D’Étoile.

Café D’Étoile now has 24 employees, quite a few of whom have been with Doherty for over 20 years. “When [people] find something decent, they want to stay,” Doherty said, explaining the long tenure. “In addition, I’m not a trigger happy guy.”

In the 2017 interview, Doherty described the evolution of Café d’Etoile’s clientele, which initially was mostly gay men. “In the early days it was probably 98%,” he said. “Now, probably 75% gay-ish.” Doherty said the city is changing. “Lots of people are buying in WeHo, and they’re paying big dollars. They’re straight. They’re gonna come down to local places as well.”

Celebrities have been spotted at Café d’Étoile. During his 2017 interview, Doherty pointed to Rachel Lindsay of “The Bachelorette,” who was sitting nearby. Doherty said she comes in for lunch now and again. She sat with Cary Fetman, her award-winning dress designer.

  1. I loved this place! The food and the service. You never had to ask for a refill on ice tea- it was automatically done!! I love the staff, the food, the owner. Many many good memories here!!!

  2. Not really the point, but why are there no affordable fast food restaurants in weho. I don’t eat out, but who hasn’t at least once in a while had a fast food meal.

    Not to replace Cafe D’Etoile, but what about most locals and visitors who couldn’t afford D’Etoile.

    Also having an inexpensive fast food option, (again not instead or in the location of D’Etoile) people leaving drunk for ALL THE MANY BARS could go have some greasy and carb-heavy post barn meal/snack to reduce their level of intoxication (from delay to the food digesting TO LOWER ALCOHOL BLOOD LEVELS BEFORE JUMPING FROM A BAR AFTER LAST CALL AND INTO A DEADLY CAR IF BEING DRIVEN BY A VERY DRUNK PATRON OF ALL THE NIGHTLY BAR OVER DRINKING.

    1. I consider Halal Guys, Guisados, Greenwich Pizza and that hamburger place next to the Palm car wash to be reasonably affordable options to wash up the alcohol, or have a cheap lunch. There are other late night hamburger places (at least half a dozen). Subway is also open during the day. And that salad place, near Gym Bar.

      1. I don’t think that’s the issue. I haven’t been up on Sunset, But the McDonald’s at Crescent Hgts was the closest they could get to weho, but that is in the City of LA.

        Not a fan of McDonald’s, but that one on Sunset and Crescent Hgts has the Strangest/coolest/wietd/no words for that drive thru that drove into the actual strip mall super structure. It was like a tunnel, the like NY Port Authority Parking, the the pick up window….

        I used to recommend it to tourists. Worth buying a small French fries just to go through that drive through.

        Cost was certainly not an issue squeezing all that into the Weho Adjacent McDonald’s.

  3. Gay has been in the way of those who wish to get the maximum profit and rents in our dying few block of Boys Town. It”s sad to see our city leaders on council, 3 who are gay, just to continue to allow our gay friendly business and iconic venues sold away to the highest bidder/ The French Market Place, Studio One, and on and on the list goes. The city that was once a beacon of hope for gay individuals, has been sold away to the real estate developers who keep our city council members in power, with as much money as needed to stay in office. The Planning Commision is a sham as well approving everything. With individuals on there not only for decades. but obviously doing the bidding of the council members who appoint them. The zoning laws have been manipulated in their favor on the Robertson Lane project. Who knows how gay friendly the restaurant that is planned on going into the base of the old French Market Place. Gay is in the way of greed in West Hollywood.

    1. I agree that this is sad, but I would seriously like to know what you think they could have done to prevent this, from a legal perspective. How could they have prevented this business from closing? LASC? And these two businesses weren’t sold to a higher bidder, I don’t believe. I believe it is greedy landlords who are raising their rent when their lease is up.

  4. This type of restaurant and sidewalk dining are the norm throughout Europe supported by locals and tourists alike. Exactly what is killing the idea here? Dining, or should I say eating on bare tabletops wiped down by what I wouldn’t want to imagine and paying hefty prices for no real service is grim. If places with the ambiance of Joan’s on Third can thrive and be copied, or full service restaurants with or without tablecloths or butcher paper, why not in WH? Too many settle for too little.

  5. I was just there Sunday for Brunch. This is like hearing of someone that you know has passed. This is a sad sad day for the clientele of this establishment. I too have had a number of life’s occasions celebrated here; birthdays, anniversaries, you name it. Thanks Tom to you and your staff for 20+ years of fond memories at your restaurant.

  6. Great quote: “West Hollywood continues to morph into a center for a new wave of urban living and 21st Century businesses.”

    1. Most of which are expensive, mediocre at best and boring to anyone that does not need to wax their eyebrows or drink too much coffee. Maybe they can put in a Kitty Muffin place next to Kockdog. Anyone actually tried a pizza at Rocco’s?

  7. No!not l’etoile! The best prime rib dinner in WeHo…now it’s only a mere store front for boys shorts…pity

  8. I’m stunned. I go two dozen times a year — the best eggs benedict in Southern California, for decades. TOM !! don’t retire, you’ll be bored to death.

  9. I eat there regularly and have sadly noticed changes over the past few months where vendor reps and city reps have been in to collect on accounts that weren’t being paid. The economics just weren’t working. It could have been saved and reimagined with some capital reinvested and an updated menu but labor costs are rising and the new Bottega Louie opening right across the street soon would put significant pressure that they would be pressed hard to compete with. Sadly I will miss many of the staff that I have become friendly with over the years. I need a new lunch spot in this area…recommendations?

  10. I will miss this restaurant and Tom and the rest of the staff greatly. I’ve been dining here for decades and it’s always been a delight to eat here. Sadly, this is just another case of West Hollywood changing with the times. Apparently, Reality TV stars are the new thing.

  11. Please NOT another Lisa Vanderpump restaurant. While she does a beautiful job on her properties her restaurants attract straight females. She’s the driving force making Gay Weho the go to place for straight girls.

  12. It’s a difficult atmosphere for business for sure. Restaurant prices keep going up to pay for increased rent, wages, food, etc. I’d love to eat out more (and support local businesses), but rent keeps increasing and CA keeps taxing me more and more. This is money that I could have to spend at local establishments. Instead, it get’s funneled to Sacramento to be wasted as they seem fit. I’m getting ready to leave CA because the cost of living is just to high. When are the politicians going to realize that our hard earned money is not there’s to take.

  13. I am so sad to hear this bad news. It was an outstanding place. My Friend the late Nanette Fabray said Cafe D’Etoile reminded her of a bistro in Paris that Randy her husband spent hours and she loved this Cafe.
    TOM, You are remarkable and a wonderful guy…… and I will miss you greatly as will so many.

  14. This news is truly awful. I’ve loved Cafe for eons, it’s so sad to see so many of our businesses that are gone. As I’ve previously stated, we’ve lost Silver Spoon, French Market, Yukon, Jan’s, Get Well, and so forth, I know some of them have been gone for years but how many more of our neighborhood businesses will leave to be replaced by mixed-use developments sitting empty because the small business owner can’t afford the rents!! Perfect example is the Dylan who specifically created a place for a restaurant at the n/w corner of Santa Monica and La Brea. It’s been sitting empty for years!

  15. So, Cafe D’Etoile closed. Wanna place bets on what overpriced non-gay establishment will replace it in the same storefront? Chick-Fil-Hate? Hobby Lobby? Urban Outfitters? Papa John’s? Hooters? Breeders R Us? Aaron Schock’s Republican Re-Election Campaign Headquarters? The Wing’s Man-Hating Annex Lounge? The Bachelorette Party Supply House? Betsy DeVos’s No-School School Supplies Warehouse? Kevin Hart’s All-Anti-Gay Comedy Club? Mike Pence’s West Koast Kweer Kreematorium? You can’t tell me there isn’t SOMETHING more that could be done to preserve the opportunity for gay-owned businesses to thrive in West Hollywood’s Santa Monica Boulevard Boystown strip. With all the discrimination (anti-gay bakers, etc.) in this country, nationwide, there isn’t ONE strip of street in ONE city that can be dedicated to the history specifically of gay history and culture? City tax breaks? Subsidies? Historical status? When places like LASC and Cafe D’Etoile start going out of business, it’s time for new City Council members who remember West Hollywood’s roots and culture and are ready to put real money behind LGBT-affirmative business practices. Otherwise, it’s just “Larchmont West” or “Beverly Hills East”. It is SUCH internalized homophobia to let our historical retail/commercial institutions fade away to the highest (mainstream, straight) bidder. No other culture would allow this. Hey, in other news, Fundamentalist Christians are taking over Fairfax and replacing all the Jewish businesses. Mormons are taking over Bourbon Street in New Orleans and replacing the bars with “family spiritual centers” to bring relief from sin. Greenwich Village is being taken over by Darden Restaurants to make it more “family-friendly” at last. F— that. Gay History is IMPORTANT history. Gay Culture is IMPORTANT culture. It is not to be sold or forced out so that straight society can take over everything, everywhere, with their “majority privilege” Almighty Dollar.

    1. You talk about anti-gay discrimination, yet you speak in very anti-straight language. It goes two ways. I, personally, feel objectified when you refer to us as “breeders”. Not every heterosexual is anti-gay, you know. This City is full of allies and the City would not exist if not for us. Tone it down.

      1. I agree with you 100 percent, Long Time Resident. And I’m gay/bi. He seems to want attention more than anything. My concern has always been the sourcing of ingredients (organic, non-gmo, wild, pasture-raised, is my priority) regardless if it’s a “gay” or “straight” restaurant. The divisions become crazy and I agree with Nate too about CA taxing everyone to death, keeping us from having extra income to visit restaurants. That said, I hope everyone had great memories working here.

      2. You can’t be long time resident and be offended by the term breeders, that’s the term that’s been said about straights for decades now.

        1. It’s a derogatory, outdated term that gays used as a defense when under attack. It’s definitely a term to file/retire, or keep to yourself and not on public forums.
          I think many people project their own insecurities and use these terms when in that state of mind, I know, I used to do the same when I was younger. Let’s focus on the quality of food and good vibes and anyone is welcome at West Hollywood restaurants.

          1. The only gay businesses that will thrive in WeHo are bars. Retail and restaurants are history. If you want to preserve the “gay community,” I suggest you do what you can to keep the bars thriving, including the later last call option. Just put another bar in place of this restaurant, and don’t make it pretentious. Built in clientele right there.

          2. Point noticed and should be obvious to most. But WHY? Perhaps the City of WeHo not only drools over the tax bars and Nightclubs pay to the City and perhaps get incentives, city services and possibly other “help” to open and stay open, Rather than work with a restaurant (a landmark and WeHo defining one in this case) to give assistance, commitment to equal fair regulatory & all that which “cash cows” from bars feed the insane annual revenue of the City that goes in, remains mysterious until the City begins to whine “they don’t have the funds” for city Public Safety, and social services needed for residents of weho.

          3. Ken, John Duran stated this, on his FB post:

            “But on the bigger picture – preserving LGBT culture and history is critically important to me. I am very grateful that my Weho council colleague Lauren Meister asked me to co sponsor an item to assess how we can preserve legacy businesses in Weho. It passed council a few months ago.”


            I’ll admit that I have not researched this enough to understand what it means. Or if it will have any affect.

            Regarding any straight people who are offended by his post, sorry, but this community was, and has been, a safe haven for gay people for decades. Perhaps you don’t understand that because you are not a MINORITY (as straight people), and didn’t need this type of utopia or safe space. I’m not going to feel sorry for you, or feel like you are discriminated against, strictly because of that. I appreciate some of your advocacy towards the LGBT community, but, at the same time, you don’t know what it feels like to be LGBT, and have a community that you can feel safe in, or need that to continue. And you don’t know how it feels to watch it turn into something different.

    2. This closing had little to do with changing demographics. Cafe started losing clientele. For whatever reason the gay community here was less interested in going, and unfortunately when the patrons started disappearing cafe responded by jacking up the prices to cover overhead causing even fewer people to go. Once it gets to the point where a couple of drinks and a bowl of pasta at the bar sets one back $70, they’d have to have a broader appeal than just being the local gay hangout. Would be nice if someone could go in and rework the economics, freshen the menu to current tastes, but keep the table service and conversation friendly noise levels unavailable in the bars. Even as recently as a couple of years ago, it was really fun hangout, especially Friday nights.

    3. Thanks Ken. Sadly City Hall’s laser focus on revenues has put a premium on what is new and trendy. All we hear about is the $100 million reserve in the City’s coffers but it comes at a price to the soul of the community. Cafe is a victim of rent gouging that no amount of hard work or dedication can overcome. Rainbow sidewalks are not a good substitute for a vibrant LGBTQ community. I cringe whenever I hear talk about “historic” Boys’ Town because there is an underlying premise that our best days are in the past. It does not have to be like that.

  16. So very, very sad. The community has lost a gem. It was our Cheers. Everyone knew your name and we knew theirs. It was family. So many great memories. Love them all and they will be missed. xo

  17. Boystown used to be a place where you could find a variety of things besides just bars and nightlife. You could stroll down that strip on a Sunday afternoon (or, a weekday, even), and do some shopping, have a meal (not just fast food, or food served inside a bar), get a hair cut, or a work out in. Restaurants such as these are sadly closing. Restaurants that included table service, and the ability to sit on the patio and watch people walk by (like they do all over Europe).

    The more of these types of businesses go under, the less inclined I am to visit that part of town. I appreciated the variety of things besides just bars and nightclubs, and that is dwindling fast. I think this is sad, and not just for nostalgic reasons.

  18. Very sad to see Cafe d’Etoile go.

    For me it was one of those places that defined West Hollywood……Irreplaceable.

  19. This is such a bummer! John Altschul & I have had our Saturday lunch there for years.
    Our drinks are on the table by the time we sit down…Chip recites the specials even though he knows we won’t order any.
    When they were out of Baguette, the chef offered to run to Pavilions to get some. I will truly miss that Cheers-like small town feeling
    & Chip, Pablo, Manny & Tom…and the escargot.

  20. Sad. When a city causes its roots to die, there is no healthy future. This restaurant along with other long time businesses have apparently been part of the root system. Yes, times change but values should not. Sad.

  21. This thought just came to me after my last post.Has it occurred to anyone that guys prefer to eat and drink in a noisy place,rather than a quieter place like Cafe d”Etoile? I noticed a lot of places on Santa Monica Blvd. are fairly noisy even in the daytime.The new Rocco’s is one example.

  22. Been there several times and enjoyed the atmosphere there.From the article,it appears the old-line gay places are going away to be replaced by the metrocentric type places that will serve straights as well.Of course,rising rents don’t help the situation.

  23. Our ‘Cheers’ where everybody knows your name was a special place because of Tom and his loving staff. One would go to Cafe DeToile and it felt like eating at home with family. Thanks for all you contributed to WeHo – And your generosity. Remember our door to door fund drive for the LGBT Center- we raised over $23,000 – and you were the wind beneath our wings. Glad your still my neighbor and I’m with you for life my friend.

  24. This is truly tragic. Another long standing establishment primarily patronized by the gay community is going to be history. Boystown is looking less so.

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