SANTA MONICA CANYON — Its lime green exterior, small town atmosphere and popularity among celebrities have made Patrick’s Roadhouse a local landmark and one of Pacific Coast Highway’s most recognizable restaurants.
Now the diner could be facing closure at the end of the year after its owner received an eviction notice last month.
While admitting he was “not the best possible tenant” and sometimes got behind on rent, Anthony Fischler, whose father William Fischler started the restaurant in 1974, said he was caught completely off guard when he received the notice on Nov. 17 from his landlord, Santa Monica-based M & M Investments. He said for the last two years he’s paid rent on time.
“They didn’t give us a reason why, they just suddenly showed up after 36 years with a notice to leave the premises after 30 days,” Fischler said. “There’s a big uproar as you can imagine.”
Fischler has retained a lawyer to help him contest the eviction, he said, and considered lobbying Los Angeles City Hall to designate the restaurant an official landmark before he learned landmark status would only preserve the Roadhouse’s structure, not the business itself. Located at the corner of PCH and Entrada Drive, the restaurant is a favorite among Santa Monica Canyon locals but is inside Los Angeles’ city limit.
Reached briefly on Wednesday, Lee Benchay, a partner in M & M Investments, declined to confirm sending the eviction notice, saying only, “If it is true or not it’s none of your business.”
Before hanging up abruptly, he added, “I can only tell you the restaurant is open and it’s going to be open and it’s going to be remodeled.”
The Roadhouse’s operator, Silvio Moreira, though, said he remained concerned about the possibility of losing his livelihood. An immigrant from Portugal, he’s a longtime waiter at the restaurant who took over as operator in 2005. He said he’s always run the business on a month-to-month lease, which has made for a “perilous existence.”
“I did it because I thought it was a special place,” he said of the Roadhouse.
The food at Patrick’s is ordinary diner fare, but the restaurant has benefited from media attention over the years because of its unique look and celebrity cache. Bill Clinton has paid a visit, Arnold Schwarzenegger has an honorary chair and actor Josh Brolin is among the regulars. It was recently profiled in the Los Angeles Times and featured in an episode of the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
But Moreira said the restaurant is above all a place for people from the neighborhood to get together and enjoy a good meal.
On Wednesday, patrons at Patrick’s said they’d back an effort to preserve the restaurant, noting it’s one of very few historic eateries left near Santa Monica. Easily visible from the highway because of its bright green facade, inside the decor is a mish-mash of memorabilia — “Irish pub meets pirate ship,” as one patron put it — that customers agree is part of the charm.
“It’s like the anti-IHOP,” said Avri Nadir, a Santa Monica resident who was eating breakfast with his wife, Lauren, at the counter.
“It’s an historic attraction and it’s a great find,” said Tony Dimond, who was having breakfast with two friends. “I can’t imagine what they’d put in [its] place — something terrible I’m sure.”
In a way, the restaurant dates back to well before its 1974 founding. Some of the restaurant’s booths are originals from the train station that once occupied the site before PCH was built. According to Anthony Fischler, his father bought the place — then named Roy’s Hamburgers — with a $100 down payment during a family beach excursion and started manning the grill the next day. William Fischler had lost most of his money in a divorce and was looking for a new start and a new way to support his four sons. He named the restaurant Patrick’s after the baby of the family, now a successful character actor in Hollywood.
“It would be very unfortunate to see it go into the annals of history,” Fischler said, adding that he’s still hopeful something can be worked out to keep the diner open, though he said his attempts to contact his landlord have been unsuccessful.