Locals express feelings of loss as two popular Marina del Rey restaurants close without warning

BY HELGA GENDELL

Harbor House Restaurant and Edie’s Diner in Marina del Rey closed their doors permanently and suddenly on Wednesday, September 5th, with no explanation.

The Harbor House was closed Tuesay, September 4th, for maintenance, according to a notice on the door.

A public auction is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, September 25th, Inspection of items to be auctioned is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, September 24th, and 8:30 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, September 25th.

Dining and bar equipment, restaurant equipment, office equipment and booths, counter stools, assorted 1950s memorabilia and other items from Edie’s Diner will all be auctioned.

The two restaurants, both located at 4211 Admiralty Way in Marina del Rey, are owned and operated by MDR Restaurants, Inc. and the ground lessee of the parcel since 2005 is The Waterfront ñ MDR, LLC, an affiliate of EMC Development and EMC Financial.

Local residents were upset and in disbelief that the two popular dining places that have operated in the Marina for years closed down with no word of warning.

Some people who have been eating at Edie’s Diner since they were young said the loss of the restaurant evoked very strong feelings of loss.

The Harbor House Restaurant was a favorite venue to book bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, anniversaries and any other occasion, with its fantastic views of the harbor, its oyster bar, fresh seafood and steaks.

Murder Mystery Dinner Theater presented alternating productions which were popular at the Harbor House.

In the past, and with different owners, the Harbor House restaurant had been Prime Time Steaks and Castagnola’s Lobster House (reported to have woodwork that was from decking of a World War II warship).

Edie’s Diner was a fun 1950s atmosphere restaurant, with red vinyl booths and a jukebox at each table that required 25 cents per song. Burgers, fries, milkshakes and other menu items were featured, with the highest price under $15 dollars.

The two restaurants had been slated to close down when the president of EMC Development, LLC, Edward Czuker, completed lease negotiations and received approval from Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to begin demolition and construction for his proposed mixed-use development, The Waterfront.

Dusty Crane, a spokeswoman for the Department of Beaches and Harbors, said she was taken completely by surprise by the closures and that the county planned to contact Czuker to discuss the matter.

Czuker said, “I am disappointed that the operators of Edie’s Diner and the Harbor House Restaurants made the decision to close. Since I took over this leasehold 18 months ago, I have been providing them with free rent as well as paying them a cash subsidy to ensure their continued operation.

“This offer remains on the table and I had hoped that they would continue to operate as we move forward with our plans for the redevelopment of the site into a vibrant mixed-use development for the benefit of the entire Marina.”

Stacey Phelan, manager of the restaurants, said she is extremely grateful for the outpouring of well-wishing from local residents and from restaurants and hotels that are offering assistance in helping to find work for the 85 employees from both restaurants.

“These individuals are also helping us relocate the large number of celebrations and occasions that we had booked,” said Phelan. “You never know how many friends you have until something like this happens, and I can only say that it’s a wonderful experience, even though our closing is unfortunate for so many of our employees.”

Beverly Moore, executive director of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her office is scrambling to try to assist clients who had booked upcoming events at the Harbor House to find alternative spaces for their groups, and that “local hospitality industry folks are also pitching in to help and have been just wonderful in trying to take care of these customers while keeping the business in the Marina.”

“The closing of the Harbor House and Edie’s Diner is a loss to the Marina,” Moore continued. “The Harbor House was one of the largest restaurants in the community, with over 800 seats, and it was the location of countless weddings, anniversary celebrations and important corporate events.”

Moore also said, “Harbor House manager Stacey Phelan and her team at the restaurant are handling this disappointing news with grace and professionalism, and I can’t say enough about how hard she is working to manage this difficult time for her staff and her clients.”

Local resident Don Klein, who is also president of the Coalition to Save the Marina, had just returned to town and said he was shocked to hear the news of the closures.

“I think it’s a shame that such a historical monument as Edie’s Diner is closing,” Klein said. “I’ve been eating there for years and it was a place to meet people and have great views of the harbor.”

As with many situations that happen suddenly and without explanation, rumors were reported in the community, alleging that Czuker had suddenly asked MDR Restaurants, Inc. to pay a substantial rental amount per month, which would violate his lease agreement with the county.

David Herbst, spokesman for The Waterfront ñ MDR, LLC, said, “The rumor is not true. We have offered MDR Restaurants the same deal they have had for the last 18 months — free rent and a cash subsidy to operate. I doubt any other restaurants in the Marina have such a sweet deal.”

“The offer remains on the table and we hope MDR Restaurants would change its mind and accept this offer and continue to operate Edie’s Diner and Harbor House,” Herbst added.

Santos Kreimann, a deputy director of Beaches and Harbors, issued a statement for the county.

“The recent closure of the Harbor House and Edie’s Diner has compelled the county to issue a notice of violation pursuant to the current terms of the lease, which requires the lessee to provide complete and continuous use of the premises for the maximum benefit of the public,” said Kreimann. “As such, it is our sincerest hope that the lessee can reopen the facilities for business with an experienced and qualified restaurant operator at the earliest possible date.”

The president of MDR Restaurants, Inc., Mike Fry, had not responded to a phone call by Argonaut press time.

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