Chef Rainer Schwarz recently revamped the menu of Laguna Beach’s Deck restaurant with sophisticated seasonal entrees. Soon his sous chefs will turn out the same dishes next door, turning on the burners in the adjacent Driftwood Kitchen following a $2 million makeover of the former Beach House restaurant.
The restaurant closed last October when the family of founder Gail Pike vacated the dining establishment opened in 1968, severing a last remaining tie to the budget hotel developed by Loren Haneline in the 1950s.
From a block’s worth of ocean front parcels, Haneline assembled Laguna’s first resort-style property, the seven-building Vacation Village, which is now known as the Pacific Edge Hotel. Haneline’s holdings also included the adjacent former home of early Hollywood character actor Slim Summerville, converted 46 years ago to the Beach House.
In May 2006, though, the founder’s son, Bill, and his wife Linda Haneline sold their Laguna holdings to Newport Beach-based PRES Companies and Westport Capital Partners LLC, of Westport, Conn. Westport, established just six months earlier, paid $43 million and remains the controlling interest, according to Alan Reay, president of Irvine-based Atlas Hospitality Group, a hotel broker.
Since then, property managers updated the rooms and reworked a private patio in one building into the hugely popular ocean-front Deck restaurant. Now, they’ve set their sights on revamping another neglected corner with an equally appealing view.
Just how neglected became clear once a construction crew entered the premises. They uncovered an open sewer line, a wall full of grease, hundreds of rats and walls that did not touch the ground,
“They had to wear masks for two weeks,” said John Nye, operations director of Mission Viejo-based Sentinel Development Services Inc., which manages 22 Westport-owned properties.
An estimated $800,000 makeover doubled in cost, said Nye, who estimates Driftwood will generate $6 million in annual revenue to the Deck’s $5 million. The previous tenants contractually could prohibit Sentinel representatives from inspecting the property, he said.
Besides its surf and sand view, the older restaurant’s longevity comes with another benefit: its existing permit allows operations well past the Deck’s required 10 p.m. curfew, Nye said. Patrons can migrate north for late-night drinks in Driftwood’s bar, which will be stocked with specialty whiskies. While the downstairs dining room will seat 110, a smaller 60-seat space will be available upstairs for private parties, Nye said.
The side-by-side restaurants will also now share a common entry off of Sleepy Hollow Lane.