LA questions historic protection of 101-year-old Pacific dining car
A new push to designate the closed Pacific Dining Car as a historic cultural landmark is underway, and the current owners of the 101-year-old restaurant are asking for public support at a meeting of the Cultural Heritage Commission scheduled for Thursday, April 7. If approved, the historic designation would likely put Westlake Restaurant and its grounds out of redevelopment – but whether or not the current restaurant and its menu of famous steaks and late-night drinks would return is a question that, until present, remains unanswered.
Over the decades, Los Angeles Historical and Cultural Commissions have preserved beloved buildings throughout Southland, including the Original Pantry and the building that houses Cole’s French Dip. LA’s Cultural Historic Landmark status does not absolutely guarantee that the buildings will be saved, but any alterations to the property must be presented to the commission, which can delay demolition or alteration for up to a year. Taix fans of Echo Park are still fighting to save the remains of the building before development began at the 55-year-old restaurant, for example, despite objections from the owners themselves. To succeed on this path, Pacific Dining Car will need two additional hearings to receive an initial “yes” vote from the commission.
In the case of the 1921 Pacific Dining Car, owner Wes Idol III – the great-grandson of Pacific Dining Car founders Fred and Grace “Lovey” Cook – closed the Westlake and Santa Monica locations in 2020 due to the pandemic, moving to online sales of steaks, marinades and other food products. The family even auctioned off virtually everything not nailed down at both locations in September 2020, though Idol told Eater LA at the time that some photos, artwork, and items of historical interest or personnel were retained for possible future use. . Some of these items may return, if the restaurant reopens, with much of the rest of the equipment and decor replaced entirely.
The biggest missing piece is the restaurant itself, with the property opposing an actual plan for the Westlake building, which hasn’t been touched since 2020. The Idol family has yet to confirm whether or not the Pacific Dining Car restaurant, if marked as a historic cultural site, would never reopen as it did before the pandemic. They said some investors might be interested, but “right now our focus is on historic designation. With this, more possibilities are available. It’s unclear what those possibilities are, or who would even run the restaurant’s day-to-day operations, should it attempt a revival. Eater has reached out to determine if there is a long-term strategy for the restaurant beyond garnering support and asking for public comment to gain historic cultural landmark status, but has not received comment. or full statement. In a 2020 Eater LA story, Wes said, “Pacific Dining Car isn’t going away. We are rethinking the entire business model.
Additionally, the property is currently listed for sale on Loopnet as a commercial property, and in April 2020, the company accepted $625,715.00 in Paycheck Protection Plan loans. A spokesperson said by email that amounts of this loan that are not eligible for the federal repayment holiday will be repaid.
Beginning today, the Pacific Dining Car invited the public to zoom in on the April 7 Cultural Heritage Commission meeting at 10 a.m., or email the panel directly.