LINCOLN BLVD — Seniors who love their early-bird specials and late-night revelers fond of soaking up suds with a plate of hot cakes have to find a new place to dine.
Executives with Southern California restaurant chain Norms announced this week they will be closing their Santa Monica location in July after 49 years of service.
The affordable chain known for its “saw tooth” pennant sign, Googie architecture and “ultimate” meat loaf sold the restaurant at 1601 Lincoln Blvd. to a San Antonio, Texas-based developer in August of last year for $13.5 million, according to public records.
Two adjacent parcels where The Wertz Bros. Antique Mart, now shuttered, and Denny’s are currently located have also been sold for roughly $11 million each to developers who want to build hundreds of apartments and ground-floor retail space as they try to capitalize on the need for more housing in Santa Monica, a highly sought after market because of its proximity to the beach and the rapidly growing high-tech community and its well-paying jobs.
Jerry O’Connell, vice president of Norms, said the Santa Monica location will close July 17. Employees have been offered positions at the chain’s 17 other locations.
“We sold because of a combination of interest in the property as well as the negative sales impact from the construction of the [Exposition Light Rail Line] on Colorado [Avenue],” which is going to make it more difficult for customers to access and leave the restaurant, O’Connell said.
“It’s a fantastic location and it was a very difficult choice for us to make,” he added. “It was a business decision.”
Norms made its debut in 1949 when Norm Roybark, a Los Angeles native, opened his first coffee shop near the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. Norms prides itself on serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 24 hours a day, seven days a week, embracing the slogan, “We never close.”
The chain is still owned and operated by the Roybark family.
Longtime customers said they felt as if employees at the Santa Monica location were family.
“I know most of the names in there, [and] they know me,” said Katherine Sweeney, 70, who was leaving Norms Wednesday at lunchtime. “It’s friendly. I’m really going to miss it.”
Sweeney said she wrote a letter to the City Council urging the body to do what it could to stop the sale. She said she received no response.
“Santa Monica has had a lot of changes and I’d love to move out if I could afford it,” she said, echoing statements heard at many community meetings over the past few years as residents battle it out with developers who have been flooding the city by the sea with cash, building thousands of housing units and ground-floor commercial space.
There are those in the community who believe development is killing off treasured businesses like Norms and Carlson’s Appliances, while others welcome the influx of housing in hopes that increased supply will bring down the cost of living in Santa Monica.
So far that hasn’t happened as home prices and rents continue to rise. Now with the loss of Norms, so too will the cost of a T-bone steak.