Popular Downtown pizzeria Dagwoods has announced it’s set to permanently close at an as-yet unspecified date at the end of 2023. A note was sent out to subscribers to the restaurant’s email newsletter on Tuesday morning, about the same time that staff were told.
“Thank you for over 25 years of service, Santa Monica. It has been an honor and privilege to build so many relationships with our community,” the email said. “Unfortunately, our time has come to an end. Dagwoods will close its doors at the end of 2023, at the earliest. Please get your last orders in. We’re going to miss you!”
Restaurant Manager Orlando Hernandez told the Daily Press, “This morning my boss said he had a big announcement so he got everyone together and told us that unfortunately despite a number of efforts to generate more sales, he couldn’t afford to pay everyone’s wages any more.”
Hernandez said that the eatery employs 16 staff and that the owner, a gentleman named Edward Han, was hoping to keep the restaurant open until the end of January 2024, but it will most likely close at the end of December, 2023. The pizzeria earned “Santa Monica’s Most Loved Restaurant of 2020″ and it managed to survive the pandemic, an event that caused countless closures within the catering industry.
Speaking to the Daily Press, Han said, “It’s been a slow decline since then [the pandemic] and I’ve just got to the point where I feel like juice is really not worth the squeeze. There are too many economic factors that are squeezing us and the conditions just are no longer suitable for this kind of business model.”
Han says that another restaurant model might be more suitable, such as a full service restaurant where tips for staff are much higher. He also lists economic issues like the ever increasing cost of inventory, employee retention and even the drop in foot traffic around the Downtown area as factors that have contributed.
Interestingly, Han and Hernandez both mentioned that delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub have had a significant impact on the future of the pizzeria.
“They’re not helping in any way. They get in-between and squeeze themselves between me and the customers. And they cut out the profits for the mom and pop businesses, they’re not helpful. So they’re definitely influencing this decision,” Han said.
Hernandez says that during the pandemic, many customers used these services because the pizzeria only had a very small number of delivery drivers. He says that regular customers understandably got upset and were disappointed in the drop in quality of service. “It’s not always easy to hire delivery people, so we had to use these third party companies. But we got a lot of complaints from customers, saying food was left outside [and then often stolen] or not delivered at all.”
Not only was the food good at Dagwoods, but the building itself was a small number in Santa Monica that retained an old-school, almost Art Deco aesthetic, one that feels like it should be cherished given the ever-growing jungle of steel and glass.
Han inherited the restaurant from his family and says he won’t sell the property, he’ll just make it available to rent for another, different restaurant or franchise.
Assistant Manager, Sasha Berry, said that she was going to attempt to contact a social media influencer called Keith Lee. “He goes to dying businesses and restaurants and tests the food to see if it’s actually any good. That way people can visit before the place shuts down and maybe even help pick up business. So I’m going to reach out to him during my lunch break,” she said.
A customer, Logan, who ordered and ate in during our visit told us, “I grew up eating here, this was a staple of my childhood, this is very nostalgic for me. I didn’t know it was going to close until you just told me. Oh man, that’s such a bummer. So many good places are disappearing. I’m going to miss this place.”