After more than two decades of serving up burgers and shakes in downtown Laguna Beach, Johnny Rockets will close its doors for good on Sunday, Aug. 19.
Restaurant management confirmed on Thursday that the Laguna location will serve its final meals this weekend, closing at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.
Management preferred to not be quoted in this story, deferring to Johnny Rockets corporate headquarters.
Bill Chiccarelli, Johnny Rockets public relations manager, said Thursday afternoon that the closure aligns with an expiring lease.
“That location was no longer viable for us,” Chiccarelli said. “We had to make that hard decision. Opening and closing restaurants is part of the business.”
Laguna Beach City Planner Scott Drapkin was surprised by the news on Thursday and said that he had not heard of any new businesses interested in occupying the space.
“We don’t like to see any businesses leave the downtown, especially ones that have been so successful,” Drapkin said.
Drapkin noted that it’s likely another restaurant will eventually want to acquire the site, because a conditional use permit would be required for any incoming business that proposes a different use for the property. The restaurant use, he said, has been grandfathered in, so a different use would require additional parking spaces, for example.
Heidi Miller, owner of the neighboring Tight Assets boutique and World Newsstand, said she spoke with restaurant employees who found out about the closure on Tuesday when a vendor came to pick up carbonation tanks. She pointed some of them in the direction of chef and restauranteur Craig Strong, who’s opening Ocean at Main this fall and looking for some kitchen help.
Miller said her heart is broken for the families who are losing jobs. And she’s worried about the adverse economic impact the vacant property will have over the coming months. Miller said losing the hundreds of people who stopped by Johnny Rockets on a daily basis will definitely hurt both of her nearby shops.
“It’s a negative for the local businesses, it hurts us all,” she said.
Miller’s two stores share a landlord with Johnny Rockets, TC Collins & Associates, which took over the properties this month. She said in her more than 20 years in town, she’s found the previous landlord, Main Beach LLC, to be a “very fair” landlord and doesn’t believe a rent increase was the issue with Johnny Rockets.
“They have kept the rents reasonable as it’s family owned,” she said.
TC Collins & Associates did not respond to a request for comment as of press time Thursday.