marks a change that came too early for officials Selling off the good times

first_imgTime’s up for Marina del Rey’s Edie’s Diner and Harbor House Restaurant, which are scheduled to be cleared out today at a public auction. The San Diego company handling the event will take bids for more than 350 items beginning at 10 a.m. at the Harbor House, 4211 Admiralty Way. Both eateries shut their doors unexpectedly this month after an apparent disagreement between the corporation that leases the waterfront land from Los Angeles County and another company responsible for running the restaurants. The space housing both businesses and a parking lot is slated to be redeveloped by master lessee Ed Czuker of The Waterfront-MDR, an affiliate of EMC Development, although that project is still in the planning stages. Dusty Crane, community and marketing services chief for the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said Marina del Rey officials had counted on having both eateries open throughout the permitting process. The new mixed-use development requires a local coastal plan amendment and approvals from regional planning officials and the California Coastal Commission, Crane said, a cycle that could last 18 to 24 months. By Kristin S. Agostoni STAFF WRITER It’s a virtual gold mine for anyone dreaming of getting into the restaurant business: two shuttered eateries stocked full of cooking pots and kitchen equipment, red-white-and-black diner booths and cherry wood bar stools. There’s a baby grand piano in one foyer and faux flower arrangements in the dining area. Patio heaters, coffee warmers, soda dispensers. Menus are even up for grabs, their plastic covers still sticky from fingerprints. That means Marina del Rey could find itself with two more vacant restaurant buildings if EMC Development can’t find companies willing to sign a short-term lease agreement. The county is already embarrassed by a handful of eateries that closed years ago and never reopened, including the old Benihana building on Panay Way and Don the Beachcomber’s on Bali. “We don’t like that,” Crane said. “I know that a letter went out to them.” The circumstances of the closings are unclear. As auction crews on Monday affixed numbers to almost every piece of artwork and furniture in the buildings, General Manager Stacey Phelan said she couldn’t speak about the arrangement and referred all questions to Mike Fry of MDR Restaurant, the sublessee. Fry did not return phone calls Monday. A flier advertising the public auction stated that the venues lost their leases. But a spokesman for the master leaseholder said it was the restaurant owners who “made a corporate decision to close.” To ensure both places remained open as plans for the new mixed-use project progressed, Waterfront-MDR spokesman David Herbst said the corporation had been paying the eateries’ rent and providing cash subsidies. MDR Restaurant, which owned the leasehold before Czuker bought it from the company 18 months ago, could have kept operating both venues under the same terms, Herbst said. “They chose not to take the lease extension,” he said. In the meantime, he added, “Edward (Czuker) is still open to leasing to someone who understands it’s a short-term lease. ? We’re going to continue to find someone to fill that space.” County officials argue they have to: Following the closures, Crane said the department of Beaches and Harbors sent EMC Development a notice of violation concerning its lease terms – an issue now being vetted by lawyers. “It’s a touchy subject,” she said. Herbst denied the company had violated any agreements. “Not only would he extend (the lease) to those same operators, he’ll offer the same type of deal to someone who’s a credible operator,” Herbst said. The shells of Edie’s Diner and the Harbor House were mostly empty Monday morning, save for a handful of visitors. Longtime Marina del Rey resident Karen Leigh said she was drawn into the shuttered buildings out of nostalgia. A 1968 graduate of Venice High School, Leigh attended her prom at the Harbor House, known in those days as the Lobster House. The building has seen four restaurants since it was built in the late 1960s, Crane said, including runs as Reuben’s and Prime Time Steaks. The Edie’s Diner site was carved out at some point as a small coffee shop. Harbor House opened its doors in 1998 and had enjoyed mixed success in recent years, she said, although the venue was a popular spot for banquets. Phelan, the general manager, said the community has “rallied to my aid” to rebook weddings and upcoming events at other marina sites. She said she’s still trying to reschedule some parties planned for 2008. “Sometimes (Harbor House) would be busy, sometimes you could shoot a cannon through it,” Crane said. “I think Edie’s probably had more of a steady go of it.” So, Edie’s wasn’t a true 1950s diner, but Leigh said she was still considering bidding on a vintage-looking clock bearing the eatery’s name in colorful letters. The hands are encircled by a ring of red neon, and it still lights up. “Definitely,” Leigh said, “I would bid on that clock.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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