The Novel Cafe at 212 Pier Avenue in Santa Monica appears to be in its final days of operation.
After nearly 20 dimly lit years of providing writers with a musty, unpretentious, AC-free place to write for hours on end, that most rare and wonderful location is expected to go dark forever. The counter staff says it's likely to happen before the end of the month, though no official date of closure has been set.
A letter to patrons that was recently taped to the front window says the closure is the result of a landlord-tenant dispute:
"We are sorry to inform you that due to the landlord refusing to renew our lease, The Novel Café after almost two decades will no longer be at 212 Pier Street ..."
The note goes on to list the locations of several new branches of The Novel that have opened up in the past few years, but anyone who's ever been to the original knows that none of the others come close to capturing the character of the place on Pier.
Like a lot of writers, I've spent thousands of hours (no exaggeration) at The Novel during the past dozen years, or so. I've written the better part of two novels on those wooden chairs, and then some. In fact, I value and respect the place so much that I've gone out of my way to protect it. When people have asked where I like to write, I either offer them one of the less-favored locations, or straight out tell them that it's none of their business. For all the writing I've done there, I never wrote about The Novel. In fact, I cringed every time another tourist guide published nice things about it, knowing how these things go.
Places like The Novel on Pier Avenue are far too uncommon in a city full of writers, especially since Wall Street got into the coffee business.
This one was one the greatest. It will be missed a great deal.