A staple of the Santa Monica community that’s seen everyone from actor Larry David to politician Maxine Waters step through its doors is set to close next week after 38 years of service.

Back on Broadway will cease restaurant operations July 26 and transition its location into a catering facility. The restaurant’s sister site, Back on the Beach Cafe, will remain in operation with most employees moving to that location as well.

“When you’re very emotionally attached to a long-running business, you think every problem will eventually work itself out,” Fred Deni, Back on Broadway’s owner said. “Reality is, looking at last year, our situation wasn’t improving.

Deni says a lack of parking throughout the neighborhood, largely due to development and surrounding business’ employee parking, doomed his restaurant.

Despite a restaurant-friendly rent from his landlord (“I’m blessed — they haven’t raised my rent in twenty years.”), Deni says Back on Broadway suffered from lack of people finding an easy way to make it to his restaurant.

“People would call and say, ‘Hey, where’s your parking, I can’t find anything?’” Deni said. “They’d circle the block three or four times and just give up. It happened all the time.”

Deni looked into food delivery services noting it was something his customers had previously asked for. He flirted with the idea of Uber Eats but balked at the delivery service charging restaurants 30%, a charge he said he wouldn’t feel right passing on to his customers.

Foot traffic at the restaurant was dissipating badly the past six months, causing Deni to realize the catering side of his business (which routinely serves at the Annenberg) and the beach location were the only two of his businesses remaining profitable.

He made the decision to close down the Broadway location for good recently, noting it was a difficult decision to make.

“We’ve been here for almost forty years,” he said. “Children grew up coming to this restaurant and when they grew up they had their children work for us. We’ve been part of the community for a long time. It was a steady business.”

Closing the Broadway location will be bittersweet for many reasons for Deni, but perhaps the heaviest weight on Deni right now is the status of his annual Senior Dinner.

Each Thanksgiving now for over 30 years, Deni has served over 100 senior citizens and needy families in the area.

Due to expenses keeping the restaurant afloat for most of this year, Deni seemed unsure of if the Senior Dinner would happen, but the ever-optimistic Deni refused to commit to a full-on cancellation of the event.

“I’d pull my heart out if we couldn’t still find a way to continue the Senior Dinner,” he said. “It’s an important day for lots of people … I don’t know if my expenses can warrant [the Senior Dinner] but I’m still planning. Anything’s possible.”

As Deni prepares to pack his restaurants proverbial bags, he can’t help but think of the history Back on Broadway’s walls hold.

It’s served Santa Monicans for generations, was a filming location for Curb Your Enthusiasm, hosted politicians Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson and even housed over five thousand teddy bears. (Be sure to ask Fred about Teddy Bears for Bosnia some time.)

As Santa Monica continues to evolve and change throughout time, Deni hopes history will be kind to his remaining businesses.

“Everyone’s extremely disappointed,” Deni said, speaking for patrons and employees. “It’s something we didn’t want to ever see happen. We love the place, but this is just reality. Every time I saw another article about a restaurant closing I wondered when we’d be next. It’s heartbreaking, is what it is.”

angel@smdp.com

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  1. At this restaurant one time and the gentleman who was in charge was so rude and inappropriate, we didn’t stay and would never go back. Perhaps it wasn’t just the parking.

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