The recently shuttered Abbot Kinney landmark will reopen inside the new Runway retail and entertainment complex

By Gary Walker

Hal’s Bar & Grill co-owners Don Novak and Hal Frederick addressed an overflow crowd on the final Saturday night of their former Abbot Kinney Boulevard location. Photo by David Comden

Hal’s Bar & Grill co-owners Don Novak and Hal Frederick addressed an overflow crowd on the final Saturday night of their former Abbot Kinney Boulevard location.
Photo by David Comden

The former heart of Abbot Kinney Boulevard’s nightlife scene is headed for new digs in techie-friendly Playa Vista.

When the owners of Hal’s Bar and Grill announced in April that they would be closing their Abbot Kinney Boulevard location after 30 years in business there, managing partner  Don Novack  said he and his partners hoped to be back in business soon at another location.

Little did anyone suspect that “nearby” would mean Runaway at Playa Vista, the $260-million retail and entertainment complex that is the centerpiece of the planned community’s second phase of development.

The new Hal’s will occupy a 4,700-square-foot space (larger than the original, said Novack) at Runway and is slated to open just before the December holidays, said Lincoln Property Retail Division Manager Chris Daniell.

“It’s a home run for the center. We’ve always thought of Runaway as where ‘Abbot Kinney meets The Grove,’ and we think [Hal’s] will make a harmonious blend with our other tenants,” Daniell said.

Novack said he had been in discussions with his landlord on Abbot Kinney about how he could get out of his lease for more than a year. They eventually “worked out a deal that was advantageous to both of us. This was not about being squeezed out [because of an increase in rent],” he said.

That deal allowed Novack to consider the new site at Playa Vista, where Hal’s already has an established clientele.

“We had a lot of customers from Westchester and Playa Vista who would often ask about opening a second restaurant closer to them. We’ve made a lot of deliveries there for years,” Novack said.

Lincoln Property Company Executive Vice President David Binswanger said the addition of Hal’s is an unexpected surprise, given that the bar and grill still had its lease on Abbot Kinney when the firm began sketching out the types of restaurants that they wanted for Runaway.

“We never thought they would leave Abbot Kinney. But when someone like Hal’s shows up and wants to be part of your project, you’re thrilled to have them,” said Binswanger, who was a frequent customer at the Abbot Kinney restaurant.

Lincoln Property executives consider Hal’s one of the flagships for Runway’s restaurant component, which will also include 800 Degrees Pizza, Urban Plates, Panini Café, Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Sol Cocina. A 35,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market with a sit-down dining component opened at Runway this week.

“They’re that true bar and grill concept that has a very large following. We want to maintain that following and create a new following as well. We think there are huge regional implications for Runway with Hal’s relocating here,” Daniell said.

Novack said the Playa Vista location will have live music two nights a week and in many ways will resemble the popular Venice venue that he helped establish 30 years ago.

“It will definitely have a Hal’s feel, but we’ll be catering to a slightly younger crowd,” Novack said.

Laura Alice, a Venice resident and real estate agent with Marcus & Millichap, sees the move to Playa Vista as an opportunity for Hal’s to extend its reach beyond Venice.

“I think it’s great because Hal’s is evolving not because they have to but because they want to. It takes them from a niche market and opens them up for bigger things, and it will make Playa Vista much hipper,” said Alice, a past Hal’s patron.

Novack said the deal he worked out with his former landlord will also allow him the opportunity to reopen Hal’s somewhere in Venice again, where he has a pending deal in the works.

“We will be back on Abbot Kinney again,” he said.