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City Council Extends Chez Jay Lease, Grants Exclusive Concession Services
 

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By Jorge Casuso

February 25, 2020 -- Chez Jay -- which has been a staple in Santa Monica for six decades -- had its lease with the City extended through 2032 and will provide exclusive concession services at Tongva Park.

The City Council on Tuesday approved the changes to its lease with the iconic restaurant that occupies a landmark building abutting the park across from City Hall.

The small restaurant and bar will sell food from the 600-square-foot patio it built in 2017, when it signed a five-year lease for the City-owned property at 1657 Ocean Avenue it has occupied since 1959.
Chez Jay exterior
Chez Jay in 2012 (Photo by Lookout staff)

Under the new terms, the City has the ability "to specify operating hours and menu options for the restaurant’s to-go service to ensure that they are convenient to park patrons and participants in special events," staff said in its report.

Under the new terms and conditions, Chez Jay must "exercise its best efforts to promote healthy and sustainable food practices," staff said.

This includes offering "a selection of beverages with no added sugar, purchasing products from local farmers dedicated to sustainable agriculture and providing California food products that are as pure and natural as possible."

It also must provide a children’s menu that "includes healthy food and beverage items."

The restaurant must allocate and spend one percent of gross sales revenues a year to replace "worn furniture, fixtures and equipment on or relating to the outdoor patio area."

To date, Chez Jay has invested $205,000 to complete renovations that include a take-out kitchen, a walk-up order window, an access door to the take-out-counter service area and equipment and supplies necessary to operate a take-out food service.

It also installed accessible ramps and an ADA-compliant bathroom, staff said.

Operating the to-go program will cost approximately $100,000 a year in labor and supplies, staff said. The lease extension will allow the restaurant "to recapture its investments."

Granting the exclusive rights did not require a competitive process because it was part of the negotiated modifications to the existing lease, according to staff.

In addition, Chez Jay has a "unique ability" to provide the concession services since it is the only restaurant "with a physical connection to the park, through its outdoor patio."

Established in 1959 by Jay Fiondella, an actor, hot-air balloonist and treasure-hunter, Chez Jay became a local watering hole that attracted neighbors and celebrities.

The City initially wanted to replace the dimly lit space -- with its wood-paneled walls and floors strewn with sawdust and peanut shells -- with a restaurant that was “complementary with the design and activity program for the park.”

The old restaurant -- which claims to have a peanut that flew to the moon and back -- got a reprieve when the City modified its plans in 2011 after losing the redevelopment funding needed to fulfill its original vision for Tongva Park.


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