Business & Economy

Wolfgang Puck plans new 'flagship' to replace iconic waterfront spot

A rendering of the proposed new restaurant complex at the site where Gladstone's has stood for more that 40 years at the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Pacific Coast Highway.
A rendering of the proposed new restaurant complex at the site where Gladstone's has stood for more that 40 years at the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Pacific Coast Highway.
PCH Beach Associates/ Los Angeles County

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Gladstone's has stood at the same enviable spot for four decades — where Sunset Boulevard ends just short of the Pacific Ocean.

Part fish shack, part night club, part brunch spot, the venerable restaurant may be near the end, after years of speculation.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors, which owns the land Gladstone's sits on, voted 3 to 1 Tuesday to enter exclusive negotiations with a group headed by another L.A. icon, Wolfgang Puck. If all goes well, the group will hold a 40-year lease to open a new restaurant on the grounds.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the lone 'no' vote said she approved of the plans, but had questions about the bidding process.

The proposal includes a lower-budget cafe, a high-end restaurant, and an ice cream parlor—all designed by a team of architects headed by Frank Gehry.

Puck told the board:

"It is my lifetime dream to be working with Frank Gehry and to have my new flagship restaurant right here in L.A. County."

L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the proposal by PCH Beach Associates, LLC  was far and away the best bid the county received. Kuehl made it clear they were looking for a lessor who would do something big.

"The history of this, it's a pretty famous place in my district, and it's over the years, fallen into some disrepair," Kuehl said. "So much more could have been done at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway."

What's next?

Should the county and PCH Beach agree to final terms, and should California’s Coastal Commission approve, the site could break ground in the next few years. A second company that placed a bid for the lease and lost, Sunset and Ocean Partners, has also hired an attorney and alleged the bidding process was unfair. L.A.'s County Counsel disputes that claim. 

Gladstone’s has the option to maintain its lease for the next two to five years, at least until a new restaurant is ready for construction.

Jim Harris, Gladstone’s general manager, said his team is prepared to operate for as long as they can. The restaurant recently put in new floors and kitchen equipment and just last week, overhauled the menu to focus more on fresh seafood.

“We're just trying to have a simple, quality experience, as if you would have come here in 1978," he said.

Previous management companies had come in at various times and tried to update the look and feel of the place, he said, but Gladstone's is best just being itself, he said. And that'll be the focus of its last years.

"Just trying to make it nice for one last golden run into the sunset, so to speak," Harris said.

Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, the current owner, opted not to offer a proposal. Harris said Riordan, who is 87, wasn't in a place to make major renovations and a new 40-year plan for the spot.

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Angelenos out at Will Rogers State Beach Tuesday largely felt mixed about the coming change.

Lou Noble, a medic on film sets, slipped his board into its car rack after surfing at Sunset Point, a spot just down the cliff from the Gladstone's parking lot. 

"I've been going there since I was a kid," he said of the restaurant. "That's part of what I think of when I think of the beach. I guess it's kind of something you get used to in L.A., stuff you grew up with going away."

Noble said he was excited to see what Gehry had in mind for the spot.

"At the same time, I don't know if you need something that looks that grand," he said. "That's not the appeal of eating at the water. I figure the food and the ocean should do the job."

Macey Amini spread out a blanket on the sand for her sister and daughter. The three planned to hit Gladstone's after relaxing on the beach.

"I don't know, I'm in between," she said of Gladstone's. "I like it because it's a landmark, but also, the food can change. "

A decent salad, she said, would go a long way.