Electrical Fire Guts Wabi Venice

The interior of Wabi Venice

Flames ripped through popular Abbot Kinney Boulevard restaurant Wabi Venice last Wednesday, destroying the sushi bar and a dining area in what firefighters believe was an electrical fire.

L.A.F.D. Station 63 in Venice responded to the fire at 5:43 a.m. and extinguished it in about 40 minutes.

“When we got on the scene, fire was going through the roof,” said Battalion Chief Jesse Cisneros, who estimated about $3 million worth of damage to the building, which underwent extensive remodeling over the past few years. “The restaurant was totally gutted. … The whole interior was burned.”

“It was apocalyptic,” added Wabi Venice general manager Brent Moon, who arrived on the scene a little after 6 a.m. “When I walked up, the garden room was on fire.”

In addition to that dining area featuring an atrium and hanging plants, the sushi bar and three paintings by artist Laura Kimpton were also “incinerated,” Moon says, but the restaurant’s front bar area remains intact.

A culinary and community staple on Abbot Kinney since 1992, the restaurant formerly known as Wabi Sabi changed hands in 2015 and has become known for its swanky interiors, inventive sushi menu, art displays and charity events for local nonprofits in recent years.

“It’s a really sad day, but we’re going to rebuild and be better than ever. Thank you for the calls and hugs,” reads a statement that captioned fire photos posted on Instagram by Wabi Venice owners Tricia Small and Sam Marshall joined by Moon, head chef Rain Pantana and staff.

“It was devastating to see the area just burnt out,” said Debbie Zeitman, cofounder of EAT ART, which promotes the work of local artists on the restaurant’s walls. “They make it a friendly, welcoming place to be and they love to support the community of artists.”

“Wabi leads with hugs. … Our true mission is to grow love,” said Moon, who envisions a happy hour-driven reopening celebration as soon as possible.

— Christina Campodonico

Bareburger Ends 3-Year Santa Monica Run

The Main Street organic hamburger shop that offered sustainable comfort food and live entertainment to fill the hole left by The Omelette Parlour is itself now only a memory.

Bareburger, which still operates restaurants on the East Coast, called it quits in Santa Monica on Dec. 3 after a three-year run. The final event was similar to its first: a body-painting art and dance party.

— Joe Piasecki

Starbucks Comes to the Venice Boardwalk

If a chain restaurant opening on the Venice Boardwalk signifies a cultural shift from the beach’s nonconformist and bohemian legacy, call this an earthquake: A Starbucks coffee shop opened Thursday, Dec. 13, at 909 Ocean Front Walk, formerly home of the Venice Beach Freakshow.

The freakshow’s eviction in May 2017 sparked public protest at the height of community backlash over Snapchat’s then-expanding presence in Venice. For some longtime residents, replacing them with one of America’s most expansive chain restaurants adds mainstream insult to counterculture injury.

“The business that was the most perfect Venice Boardwalk attraction possible has been replaced by the least likely place to ever be welcome in this town … and people are upset. I’m upset,” writes local Blogtown author C.J. Gronner.

Santa Monica recently banned fast-food chains from opening on Third Street Promenade, and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin says he’s working to enact a similar ban on the Venice Boardwalk to prevent the displacement of unique and locally owned businesses.

“This is a critical first step that will allow local government to shape the mix of business that makes sense for the neighborhood and preserve Venice’s unique character. Some of our neighborhoods in Venice have been changing drastically, and a lot of the neighborhood flavor has been disappearing,” Bonin said.

Community action and local preservation group Venice Beach Dogz has announced a protest of the new Venice Starbucks for Saturday, Jan. 5, from 1 to 4 p.m.

— Gary Walker and Joe Piasecki

Raise a Glass to Tompkins Square

Westchester’s popular Tompkins Square Bar & Grill served its last giant burger and cold beer the weekend before Thanksgiving, with brothers Billy and Jeffrey Tompkins calling it quits after nearly 15 years in order to pursue a new venture outside the area.

Argonaut readers had repeatedly voted the Lincoln Boulevard sports bar and food-forward gastropub the area’s Best Bar in our annual Best of the Westside poll. The Tompkins brothers also endeared themselves to the community by supporting local toy drives and fundraisers.

Word is that the owners of nearby restaurant and bar Cinco have brought in the Tompkins brothers to open a restaurant on Rosarito Beach and will take over the Tompkins Square location for
a new neighborhood restaurant concept.

— Joe Piasecki

Jerry’s Deli Won’t Reopen as Jerry’s in 2019

Since October 2017, the landmark Jerry’s Deli along Mindanao Way that shares the parking lot with Marina Marketplace has been a part-time construction site instead of a 24/7 diner.

And although repairs are progressing quickly and a much spiffier building is quickly taking shape, things won’t be the same when the location opens next year. Although the property remains in control of the iconic
Los Angeles delicatessen group, expect an entirely new concept without the Jerry’s name, said an employee with the delicatessen’s Studio City headquarters.

— Gary Walker