Hot Dog on a Stick

OCEAN FRONT WALK — The original Hot Dog on a Stick is scheduled to close later this year for a remodel, according to Kathleen Shaffer, the company’s spokesperson.
The stand would likely close for about two months starting in November or December. The company hopes to make its flagship shack larger and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Last week, after some discussion, the Landmarks Commission approved the company’s demolition permit.

The shack, which is currently only 10 feet wide, would add an additional five feet of width during the closure, making it a still tiny 650 square feet, the project’s architect said.

It would have similar proportions and colors.

“We’re going to keep it as nostalgic and kind of true to tradition as possible,” Shaffer said. “We know we’re an iconic brand. We love being a part of the Santa Monica community. The look will remain nostalgic to people. This is not going to be a complete overhaul.”

The previous owners attempted this addition several years ago but they filed for bankruptcy last year and sold the company, City Hall’s Beach Administrator Judith Meister told the commission. City Hall owns the land on which Hot Dog on a Stick operates.

The shack opened near Muscle Beach in 1946 and became the first Hot Dog on Stick when it changed ownership in 1948. It is the most successful location of the nationwide chain, Meister said.

“I’ve had a hard time with this over the past few days because this has always been a special place on the beach and I think it’s culturally part of Muscle Beach,” said Chair Pro Tempore Leslie Lambert when asked to consider the demolition permit.
She said that, to her, it was “clearly a historic site” and said that she’d be more comfortable allowing demolition if she could be sure that the replacement building would have a similar look and signage.

“You all think I’m crazy, right,” Lambert said to the commission.

Commissioner John Berley pointed out that the commission couldn’t regulate what would replace the shack.

“I’m not sure what it is we’re discussing,” he said. “I think we’re talking a building not a company. We can’t landmark a business. As much as we all appreciate this quaint little hot dog stand on the beach, if the company didn’t exist then what would we have?”

Ultimately, the commission agreed with Berley, opting to allow the demolition to move forward.

The commission could have asked for more historical information on the building and opted, at a later meeting, to nominate it for City Landmark designation. It is much more challenging for owners to make changes to or demolish landmarked buildings.

With the commission’s blessing, the project will head to the Architectural Review Board for permission to remodel.

Should that be approved, the project architect said, the contractor would try to keep the venue closed for as short of a time as possible.

Founder Dave Barham died in in 1991 and left the entire company to his employees, according to Daily Press archives. Since the bankruptcy filing, it is no longer employee-owned, Meister told the commission.

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