As leases approach expiration dates, negotiations are not looking good for some restaurants. Some are closing and relocating to more affordable locations, while others are bidding goodbye to underperforming locations.
In Irvine and Newport Beach, two power lunch restaurants, Il Barone and Prego Ristorante, have announced plans to relocate to new locations. Il Barone is taking over a high-profile location left vacant by a Coco’s in Newport Beach.
Coco’s is among several casual dining chains – a restaurant segment still struggling in a post-Great Recession world – shuttering locations in Orange County.
Here’s the latest closure round up:
• Chili’s Grill & Bar, at 17071 Beach Blvd. in Huntington Beach, closed in late January. According to public notices filed with the state, the closure is permanent and impacts 46 employees. Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s, did not provide a reason for the closure.
• TGI Friday’s in Yorba Linda plans to close March 6. An employee answering the phone at the Savi Ranch retail center restaurant said its last day will be March 5. The restaurant, at 23040 Eastpark Drive, employs 42 workers, according to a state filing. “The decision to close the location was purely a business decision and we will offer the majority (of) team members the opportunity to work at our other TGIF restaurants in the area,” a restaurant executive said in a statement.
• Two McDonald’s restaurants inside Walmart stores in Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel recently closed. A representative for McDonald's in Southern California said the decision to close at the end of a lease is up to the franchisee. Other McDonald's locations continue to operate inside Walmart stores in Southern California, McDonald’s said.
• The demise of Carrows and Coco’s restaurants in Orange County continues. The Carrows at 28502 Marguerite Pkwy. in Mission Viejo has been converted to a Coco’s. As a result of the rebrand, the Coco's at 27750 Crown Valley Pkwy. in Mission Viejo has closed permanently, said Mike Griffith, a representative for Catalina Restaurant Group. The company, acquired two years ago by Food Management Partners, operates both Coco’s and Carrows brands.
Griffith said there are no plans to reopen Carrows anywhere else. With the closure of Carrows in Mission Viejo, there are none left in Orange County.
Last week, a Coco’s at 900 Bristol St. North in Newport Beach closed. The coffee house is being converted into Il Barone, a popular Italian restaurant relocating from another site in the city.
• Prego Ristorante, a mainstay for three decades in Irvine, will serve its last meal at its Irvine Towers location Feb. 26. The owners of the three-decade-old restaurant said they were unable to “come to an agreement on the terms” of a new lease with the landlord, the Irvine Company. The owners are planning to relocate the restaurant.
• Taco Jr. in Costa Mesa recently closed. It will be replaced by Taco Brat, a taqueria/sausage house by Thomas Curren. The veteran chef has spent a career working for a variety of venues from Aubergine to Pinkberry to Umami Burger. The menu will feature “haus-made” sausages, tacos, home-cured bacon and German and Mexican beers. The restaurant is at 2101 Harbor Blvd.
• Mare Culinary Lounge by Alessandro Pirozzi has closed in Laguna Beach. An employee answering the phone at Mare this week said the restaurant, located at the Holiday Inn on S. Coast Highway, is open only for private events. This week, OpenTable said “Mare Culinary Lounge will no longer be part of the OpenTable network.” In an email, chef and owner Pirozzi said the “current hotel owner did not extend our Mare lease.” He added: "We have some time left in (the) lease and we can do some special events."
Pirozzi is best known for launching the Cucina Alessa-branded restaurants in Orange County. Pirozzi, a native of Naples, developed Alessa from his grandmother’s recipes. After debuting Cucina Alessa in Newport Beach in 2008, Pirozzi opened one in Huntington Beach in 2009 and the Laguna location in 2010.
Pirozzi “severed” ties with the Huntington Beach and Newport Beach restaurants in late 2012. Those restaurants still go by the name Cucina Alessa. He operates Alessa in Laguna Beach. He also owns Pirozzi, a pasta and pizza bistro in Corona del Mar. In December, Pirozzi took over the shuttered Salerno restaurant in Laguna Beach.
• Shinkou Sushi & Poke in Laguna Hills closed in late January. The restaurant posted a closure note on its Facebook page, thanking customers for their loyalty since it opened nearly six years ago. “It is a bittersweet feeling. We are sad and yet excited for the future adventures await. We thank you all again for your patronage and love,” the restaurant wrote.
Owner Veronica Hananto said a few factors contributed to the closure, including the inability to negotiate a new lease in a timely manner and the loss of key employees. Address: 24881 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Hills.
• The Gypsy Den at Center Street Promenade in Anaheim has closed. It has been rebranded as Center Street Tavern. The owner, who owns all Gypsy Den locations, described the modern tavern as a zero attitude hangout serving classic beers, elevated wines and simple cocktails.
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