Blondstone. "The merchants are the ones getting undercut."
Chances are, if you haven’t visited Ocean Beach in a while you might need a new map to help you find some of your favorite spots, as raising rents have some merchants relocating or simply closing.
Along Newport Avenue between Sunset Cliffs and Cable Street, most notably absent is the Village Kitchen. The Lopez family took over the local diner in May 1987 and sadly closed for good in July 2019. The space remains vacant, although there is an interested party, they have yet to finalize everything and asked not to be named yet.
Blondstone Jewelry moved locations in October, after 20 years in the same space. The jewelry store moved from Newport Ave at Cable Street and into the OB Mall located along the same block, closer to Bacon Street.
“Basically what’s happening is the landlords are all trying to get together and raising the rents,” Heidi Holman, the owner told me. “They’re raising them because of all the people that come down to the farmers market. But these people aren’t buying from the shops, they’re buying from the people vending who pay no rent and set up for free. The merchants are the ones who pay for the streets yet we’re the ones getting undercut. The last five-years have been pretty tough.”
Lax laws regarding vending have resulted in a flurry of non-licensed vendors along the sidewalks during Farmers Market, as well as the surrounding areas.
“Rents keep going up, we can’t compete with the market. So now we’re all scrambling for these other spaces. It was fun when it was cheap, but when it got expensive it wasn’t as fun. I love my new space now that the pressure is off, plus this place costs a fraction of what I was paying before. And my old spot has remained vacant since October 2019.”
Danielle from Jungle Java: “No contracts have been signed yet"
Newport Pizza, between Bacon and Abbott streets is also closed, albeit a temporary closure. After pizza being served in the same location for 36-years, the landlord decided "not to renew the lease."
Meagan Schuster, the general manager, expressed her disappointment. “Landlord refused to renew, we’re actually moving across the street into Jungle Java, we’re working on that now, we’ve done all the plans, just waiting on the City. What’s happening on Newport right now reminds me of what happened in Pacific Beach about five years ago when the rents were raised, its disappointing that’s for sure.”
The business basically gutted the place in about three days. As I walked by, Sergey Gornushkin, the artist who crafted the infamous Shaka octopus, was busy removing the artwork from the exterior.
“Yeah, that’s Shaka,” he told me. “We’re going to refurbish it and then put it back up at the new location across the street, at Jungle Java.”
Livingston’s Chicken Kitchen (Newport/Cable) locked up one night and the owner never came back.
Danielle from Jungle Java told me: “No contracts have been signed yet, but yes, we are most likely going to be sharing a spot. I’m only going to be taking up 100 square feet, making it really small up here near the entrance, and they (Newport Pizza) are going to use the rest and try to keep it open-air. My rent is really high, and they do want to raise it every year, so I wanted to downsize because I can’t pay for the whole property just selling coffee.”
Another establishment suddenly closed shop after 20years. With no notice given to employees or the landlord, Livingston’s Chicken Kitchen (Newport/Cable) locked up one night and the owner never came back. Employees showed up to work in the morning and learned of the owner’s unexplained absence. The space is located adjacent to Sunshine & Company, and while there are no solid renters yet, I was told that the rent is “way too high.”
Apogee Body Piercing Studio has been on Newport Ave (Bacon Street) since 1994. They will be relocating across the street on the same block, into the space that has been empty for several years since the closing of Lola Luna.
Owner, Katie Jane said she expects to have the new location open within days.
Electric Chair and Apogee. “Paul sold the business about four years ago."
“The window decals are coming in today, and we’ll get those in on the weekend. I’ve got plants, and the glass and cabinets, all the cabinets are all custom so each piece of glass needs to be cut separately. We should be open in about ten-days. I’m getting a bigger space for less rent, so it was a no brainer.”
Apogee’s immediate neighbor on Newport Ave, the Electric Chair, has closed shop after being in business since 1984. Jane explained what happened.
“Paul sold the business about four years ago, and he sold it to somebody that didn’t have a clue about the business. So they just sort of ran it into the ground, she wasn’t really there.”
Both spaces have for lease signs in the windows.
"What’s happening on Newport right now reminds me of what happened in Pacific Beach about five years ago."
Neighborhood favorite, the Lazy Hummingbird on Santa Monica Ave, is gone. Located one block off Newport, between Sunset Cliffs and Cable, the beloved coffee shop featuring coffee, tea, light bites, local artwork, live music and a dog-friendly patio, had to vacate their shared space with the Ocean Beach Business Canter who wanted to expand.
After serving grilled cheese at the Farmers Market for 6-years, the Mad Munch Grilled Cheezer Co. finally moved into it’s remodeled space on Newport Ave between Cable and Sunset Cliffs, next to the OB Hardware store.
“We opened May 29, of 2019, but we have had the place a little over two-years, it’s just my husband Zach and I,” owner Kate Heinz told me.
Other closures/relocations include:
In September 2019, the Black Bead closed its doors on Newport Ave (at Bacon), selling exclusively online now. In November 2019, Blackwater Tattoo moved into the space.
The Subway on Cable Street (at Newport) closed in December 2019, and will be replaced with SOI OB, a Thai restaurant. The eatery has a location in North Park, SOI 30th.