Closures mark the end of an era in Venice and curtail a comeback story in Playa Vista

By Joe Piasecki, Jessica Koslow and Gary Walker

Event photographers Venice Paparazzi captured the Playa Vista location of Hal’s Bar & Grill packed with diners during a 2017 Runway Night Market event

A Westside cultural institution for more than three decades, Hal’s Bar & Grill anchored the renaissance of Abbot Kinney Boulevard and pioneered a flagship presence in the growing community of Playa Vista. The restaurant, bar and live jazz venue didn’t just roll with the changes, it played a leading role in preserving a sense of local identity among the growing presence of national chain stores.

That legacy appears to be a historical one now. Late last Thursday, notes appeared on the doors of both its Venice and Playa Vista locations stating that the business will be liquidating and instructing employees to meet in Playa Vista to settle final paychecks. The mood there appeared to be a mix of shock and sadness, and owners of the business could not be reached for comment.

Hal’s original Abbot Kinney location of 30 years closed in April 2015 when its landlord sold that building (now home to a flagship Adidas store) for a reported $44 million. A more compact version of Hal’s and sister restaurant Casa Linda (also shuttered) later opened down the street in the former home of Primitivo.

Meanwhile, Hal’s Bar & Grill owners Don Novack, Linda Novack and Hal Frederick staked the restaurant’s future on the Runway at Playa Vista retail, entertainment and residential complex. In the spring of 2017, after an extended period of construction, Hal’s opened a gorgeous new flagship restaurant at Runway, which is due for a more pedestrian-centric remodel this year while struggling to lease many of its retail storefronts.

About a month ago, Hal’s Bar & Grill celebrated the hiring of a new executive chef and updated its dinner menu. News of its closure has left many longtime locals feeling shocked and upset.

“Hal’s was Venice’s city hall at lunchtime. People came to eat, conduct business, see and be seen,” said former Venice Neighborhood Council President Linda Lucks. “My favorite times were just sitting with Hal and listening to his stories about his early acting career and hanging out with James Baldwin in Paris.”

“I was just in Venice and passed by the old Hal’s and my heart was full and sad because not only has change come, but the energy of the entire block was different,” said Venice native Jewel Delegall, whose jazz musician husband gigged at Hal’s. “As things changed in Venice, Hal’s was the one place I could go back to that felt like old Venice. It had a special energy. Where will we go to feel that same sense of home?”