WILSHIRE BLVD — After 26 years under current ownership and decades under previous owners Callahan’s will close at the end of this year.
The diner, beloved by many local regulars, has been open since 1946 according to the new building owners.
Abraham Vazquez, who has owned Callahan’s since 1988, said that his lease is up at the end of the year and that he can’t afford the rent proposed by the building owners.
Added to his burden is the loss of his daughter, Leticia “Letty” Vazquez, who died earlier this year.
“She helped me with everything and everybody knew her,” Abraham Vazquez said. “She’s been working in here since she was very young and it’s much harder without her.”
Letty Vazquez was 45 years old and her funeral at St. Monica’s was attended by more than a thousand people.
The new building owners, LGO Hospitality, are seeking a liquor license for the Callahan’s space. They will make their case at the Planning Commission meeting tonight.
There’s no plan for a bar, said Allison Shashok, an LGO Hospitality spokesperson.
“Alcohol will be offered as an accessory to food,” she said, “hopefully making dinner time business a viable effort.”
Building owners plan to put the building on the historic register and restore the diner to its original condition.
“No change in the floor plan will be made,” Shashok said in an e-mail. “The menu will be an affordable ‘farm to table’ diner using the Santa Monica farmers market. There will be a discount for seniors as well as a children’s menu.”
Bob Lynn and Sara Abbott, the couple behind LGO Hospitality, own and operate several food-related businesses, including La Grande Orange Cafe and The Luggage Room Pizzeria in Pasadena’s historic Del Mar Train Station building.
Vienna Pastry, which has been open in the other half of the Callahan’s building since 1946, will stay on as a long-term tenant.
Vazquez, who is the brother City Council member Tony Vazquez, worked at Rae’s restaurant for decades before buying Callahan’s from its original owners. Despite his Mexican roots, Vazquez opted to stick with Callahan’s name because the restaurant had been around for so long. Saint Patrick’s Day remains a busy holiday for the restaurant and Cinco de Mayo has become just as popular.
Thanksgiving, too, is a hallmark of the diner.
“We stay open because there are a lot of people who’ve been coming for years — it’s a tradition — and people who don’t have any family,” he said.
French toast is arguably the most popular item on the menu, he said.
Sitting at a booth with a cup of coffee, Vazquez, a resident of Venice, pointed out all the regulars.
“Those two have been coming since 1988,” he said. “And those people over there come in at least once a week. Some people come in every day. A few people eat two meals a day here. And you have the people who eat three meals here every day.”
Vazquez sounds weary talking about the loss of Letty and the looming end of his restaurant.
“Unless something changes, we’ll probably stay open until the very end: Dec. 31,” he said. “It’s very sad. I have great memories. People come on anniversaries and birthdays. Celebrations. I’ll miss the people.”