DOWNTOWN — After 20 years on the Third Street Promenade, the Broadway Deli on Monday served customers for the last time, one day before the restaurant’s deadline to clear out so its landlord can prepare the space for higher-paying tenants.
On Monday, bottles of wine were marked down 30 percent, part of a liquidation sale, but otherwise there were few signs the longest-tenured restaurant on the promenade was shutting its doors for good.
“It’s sad. It’s the end of an institution, the end of an era,” said General Manager Marc Zeidler. “It was like a family.”
He has been resigned to closing since summer, when his long-term lease expired and he faced a steep rent increase to come to terms with landlord Promenade Gateway. But he said he had hoped to at least stay in business until the new year.
“It’s just sad that the landlord would put 65 employees out on the streets in the month of December,” he said.
Zeidler said he received a 30-day notice to vacate this month and unsuccessfully tried to get Promenade Gateway to push the closure date back a month. In response to his inquiries, he said he received only a letter threatening a lawsuit if he failed to vacate the premises by Nov. 30.
Scott Blake, asset manager at Promenade Gateway, on Monday said his company acted in good faith according to a short-term agreement with the Broadway Deli that was reached after it became clear the restaurant couldn’t afford a long-term deal.
“We have replacement tenants and we have an obligation to build that space out as quickly as we can,” he said of the decision to get the deli out before December. Promenade Gateway has not yet announced who the new tenants will be.
Blake said his company dealt fairly and openly with Zeidler and his partners.
“We’ve enjoyed a great relationship with the Broadway Deli and we certainly wish the principals and the employees luck,” he said. “We’ve tried to be very upfront and above board with everybody. Everybody that was familiar with the transaction knows that we were above board.”
For employees, though, news the restaurant was ending its run couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Ricardo Cruz, who started at the Broadway Deli as a busboy in 1990 and worked his way up to become a manager, on Monday said the closure felt like the death of a relative.
“This has been home, not only for me but for a lot of people,” he said. “At least for the time being, I cannot picture not coming to work here in Santa Monica at the Broadway Deli.”
For many employees, losing their livelihoods during the holiday season made the closure especially difficult, he said.
“December is the worst time to lose a job and I think that’s extremely hard,” he said. “It’s a sad day all around.”
While the closure had been expected since Promenade Gateway in April went before the Planning Commission to request permits it needed to subdivide the space at Third Street and Broadway for new tenants, news the deli had reached the end of the line caught some regular customers, including Santa Monica resident Steve Taub, off guard.
“I’m shocked,” he said. “It’s been a staple of Santa Monica for ever and ever and ever, for tourists and for locals.”