Santa Monica's city hall and the Ocean Avenue landmark Chez Jay are not playing well together. The city is developing the parcel around Chez Jay into a park and wants a restaurant that will point inward to the park — not out to the street — and will serve healthier fare than the steaks and plentiful drinks that Chez Jay's current patrons like. Sawdust on the floor? Forget about it. From the Santa Monica Mirror:
When the Palisades Garden Walk opens in December 2013, those visiting one of Santa Monica’s prized public projects may seek out nearby places to eat. City Hall hopes to have a park-friendly restaurant on-site, so that hungry park visitors will not have to walk too far to satisfy their palates....
Peggy Clifford at the Santa Monica Dispatch put the showdown in culture clash terms:
In this spring of our discontent, City Hall has cranked up its efforts to subdue this gloriously idiosyncratic beach town....
But nowhere is the schism between what Santa Monica is and what City Hall wants it to be more visible, and more ominous, than in Staff’s disdain for Chez Jay’s.
Once upon a time, half a century ago, an actor, adventurer and very nice man, Jay Fiondella, opened Chez Jay’s, a restaurant with a bar, very informal, an assemblage in the best California mode – eccentric, original, wry, humorous, like Jay himself. He was a superb host, and Chez Jay’s was his living room – informal,simple, and true. The food was fine, the drinks were strong. Over time, it became a haunt for the famous as well as assorted beach bums because it did what it did perfectly.
Jay died several years ago, but before he died, he won a promise from the City that it would preserve Chez Jay’s. Since his death, his family has run it, but now City Attorney Marcia Moutrie has ruled that the City can’t make such promises.
Photo: Alan Pavlik