By Melanie Camp
Venice has suffered another blow to the old guard with both Joe’s Restaurant and Roosterfish announcing, in the same week, that they will be saying goodbye to the neighborhood. Their departures fur- ther adding to the changing face of Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Locals expressed outrage on social media regarding the shutterings, Yvonne Sjostrand writing on Facebook in a response to the news that Joe’s would be closing: “everything old Venice seems to go away slowly one by one. Soon we all have to start our story with remember when…”
On twitter Frank Fox wrote: “Gentrification has finally hit me where it hurts. If hipsters turn Roosterfish into some vegan vodka bar, I’m out of Venice! Nothing Left!”
It seems indeed that gentrification is playing a part in the demise of Roosterfish. After original owner, Walter Schneider, passed away 10 years ago, Gary Mick took over the bar saying he has, “been a fortu- nate trustee.” Roosterfish had been offered a new lease, Mick says it was one they chose not to accept. Adding that he is beginning to wonder how any business can survive on Abbot Kinney with the current cost of commercial leases, “it’s getting to be more about bragging rights. Location, location.”
James Allen from Coldwell Banker Preview Estates has been a realtor in Venice for almost 20 years. Over the last few years Allen says he’s witnessed the jump in price per square foot on Abbot Kinney. Allen says the Roosterfish building owner is asking $17 a square foot per month.
Venice business rentals average $7 to $8 per square foot, according to Allen, with Abbott Kinney commanding prices between $10 and $17 a square foot.
“This jump in the price per square foot over the last few years brought on by the ‘Gentrification of Venice’ is really changing the landscape. Popular Venice businesses such as Hal’s, Joe’s Restaurant, and the Roosterfish can no longer pay these exorbitant rents and these places, that have been local favorites for years, are one-by-one having to leave the Venice area for good,” says Allen.
As far as relocating, Mick says, “Roosterfish is a one of a kind creation, made what it is by the folks passing it’s threshold. It’s unlikely that we would relocate with that name,” adding that there are no plans for a new bar either, at this time.
“In the 37 years we have seen the gay community grow to be more mainstream. Gay rights, gay marriage. We have a long way to go for perfect equality, but we will persevere as we always have,” says Mick.
Sadly for Venice and the Westside LGBT Community, the bar, which has been Los Angeles’ longest continually running gay bar, will not persevere. In May Roosterfish will call last drinks for the last time, shutting the doors forever to the iconic aqua location, “there’s a
lotta history in here,” says Seth who works at the bar, “and until we close in May we’re going to give it a good more 3 months.”
“In the early days the neighborhood was pretty ghetto,” Mick adds
. “We still have a hole in the ceiling were a bartender shot his gun off in the bar, back in the day. We have witnessed dark times in gay history along with everyone in the country. Lucky for us Venice is a fairly forgiving place to be. A message for the Venice community? Thank you for the pleasure. My crew and I have had a ball! Happy trails to you.”
In a heartfelt email message to those on the Joe’s Restaurant mailing list, Chef Joseph Miller made the announcement that his restaurant would be saying goodbye to Venice writing, “after 24 years, I have decided to close Joe’s Restaurant. My restaurant. I have had a great run bringing Farmer’s Market-driven, fine-dining to Abbot Kinney. I have seen this community through many changes.”
Miller says that the decision to close came with mixed feelings, and he hopes locals, “who have frequented my restaurant over the years will find time before the 14th of February to come in for one more meal and to say good- bye. But most of all, I want to say, thank you.”
With this Valentine’s Day being the last day of business at Joe’s Restaurant there is sure to be a whole lot of love pouring out to the place that has been on Abbot Kinney for almost a quarter of a century…and may be after dinner, everyone can filter down the street for a nightcap at Roosterfish. A farewell tour of two Venice OGs.