Diners are cool. And they’re convenient and often a low-cost dining out option. Never a big fan myself of Swingers (b. 1993), I decided to go Saturday, on their final day of business.

Santa Monica now has a dearth of diners. (Oh, my acute affection for alliteration!  And for seldom-used words like dearth. Definitely, there is a dearth of dearth.)

With Norms (1964), Denny’s (1968), Callahan’s (1946, bought from the original owners by Tony’s brother Abraham Vasquez, in ‘88, who worked for decades at Rae’s), Zucky’s (1946), The Omelet Parlor (1978?), Carrow’s (1992, was Bob’s Big Boy 1979), Coco’s and a couple of others gone in recent years, we’re now down to the chain Johnny Rockets in The Promenade (started in LA in ‘86), the new, pricey Mel’s anchoring The Great Wall of Lincoln (have you driven by there lately?), The OP Cafe (1942), Snug Harbor (1942?) and good ol’ Rae’s, sitting there at the east end of Pico for God-knows how long, never changing, low prices, good food. (Cash only. That’s how Old School they are.)

I couldn’t find a start year for Coco’s, or for Rae’s (it might be on papyrus somewhere), but the friend who accompanied me to the Swingers closing also went with me to Norm’s sad demise (several employees had worked there more than 30 years), and as a gentleman of Medicare age he told me his grandfather used to take him to Rae’s as a kid. Now, that’s a piece of Santa Monica.



Not so much, for me. But it certainly had its place, was open late and was the inspiration for the movie Swingers (although filmed in a different diner). My now-grown daughter used to go there frequently with her Samohi friends. 

So why even mention it? Because something in all the news about it caught my eye and I didn’t see that question asked or answered.

The restaurant cited the cost of doing business as the primary reason. “Continual rising costs, food, labor, and operating expenses made our business model impossible to continue to maintain,” said the company. But their Hollywood store remains open.

Yeah. Read that last sentence again. Could all those difficult “business circumstances” exist only in SM and not LA?

So I asked the manager on duty, who prefaced by saying the entire business operation details were “above my pay grade,” but…



— and City taxes went up around then, she said, and the minimum wage went up a lot, about double, there were other new fees and we were required to conduct a new training program for all employees that was expensive…

“And the City didn’t offer any mitigation for all that?” I asked, pretty sure of the answer. “Not that I know of,” she said.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t require a living wage, and I don’t know what the training program was, maybe it was a good thing. But you put all those things together and you get SM as a lousy, if not impossible place to do business unless you are a well-heeled national or international chain. Mom and Pop, who needs ya?

Our City leaders seem to have a vision of a much denser, taller Santa Monica with no cars (but no adequate public transportation either), everyone cheerily walking or biking or scootering (yes, including your 88-year-old Grandma with groceries), a “diversity” of the wealthy opening their wallets to diverse posh retailers and restaurants, with no nevermind for residents, especially longtime residents, and no acknowledgement of the storied history of this unique, low-rise, sun-filled beach town.

The Swingers now-ex-manager lives on the edge of Santa Monica and has no idea what she will do for work. “I’d like to stay in the area, in Santa Monica,” she said, and I bit my tongue to keep from asking, are you sure? She apologized for the slow service and said, “when the word got out this was our last day, not much notice, half our employees just didn’t show up today.” Can’t say as I blame them. No room at the LA location, already fully staffed. (Norms, still a family-run chain with 19 locations, promised to find jobs for every single SM location employee.)

And the march goes on. Is this what you want for Santa Monica, dear readers? Is this making for a better Santa Monica? 



Last week I signed off with a shot at the availability of guns, hundreds of millions of guns in the USA, only in the USA, and mentioned the local young man, 19, who was shot to death by his brother in an argument, that in previous times would have ended with a fistfight, not death and anguish.

Now, some good news.

‘Walmart says it will discontinue the sale of handgun ammunition and also publicly request that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms in stores even where state laws allow it.’

It’s a start.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower (the last good Republican president)


Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at

Join the Conversation


  1. Quite a rundown of lost SM diners! Of the ones still with us you might have included Izzy’s at 15th & Wilshire, and Bagel Nosh at 17th & Wilshire.

  2. Doubt that the City and it’s tax increase are the villain here since Prop 13 still limits increases on commercial properties. Most likely “greedy landlords” are the real problem since this is happening all over SM and not just in service businesses like restaurants who are being hit big time by the minimum wage increase that most of us believe was overdue. Unfortunately most of the small and funky places we all know (or knew) and love can only survive by moving farther away from the City core where valuations and rents will always be higher.

  3. I’m pretty sure Norm’s was there before 1964 – certainly didn’t seem “new” then. Used to work inventory at Sears, and breakfast at Norm’s in the morning, after the over night work assignment, was part of the staff reward. Also…. sort of met my husband at 3 am in Norm’s parking lot in 1967. I suppose young people will bump phones somewhere in the future.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.