As celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck described it, Gladstones Malibu “used to be an icon.”
The seafood restaurant, perched above the waves of Will Rogers State Beach near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Boulevard, has been in business since 1972 and has doubtlessly seen better days, but Los Angeles County is hoping the once-swanky dining spot will be back on the A-list soon.
LA County holds a 50-year lease on the state-owned land Gladstones sits upon and, following a 3-1 vote by LA County Supervisors Tuesday, the restaurant could get a new lease on life in coming years.
Puck and a team of developers and financiers—plus renowned architect Frank Gehry—want to tear down the iconic old restaurant and replace it with what Puck said would be his flagship. Together, they formed PCH Beach Associates, LLC. Tuesday, supervisors voted to allow negotiations to begin between the group and LA County Beaches & Harbors, which is in charge of Will Rogers State Beach.
“This will be, for me, probably my lifetime dream, to be working with Frank Gehry and have my new flagship right here in LA County,” Puck said. The chef and businessman operates dozens of restaurants, bars and retail stores around the world, including several in the LA area.
The proposal for the new restaurant incorporates two types of dining spots—a neighborhood cafe and an upscale traditional restaurant.
“Cafe where people can come and spend $12 or $15 for a meal, and we’re going to have an upscale dining area where people can have an amazing meal,” Puck detailed. “They will come from all over the world.”
The restaurateur added that he expected the eatery to employ “over 300” workers who would “make really good money.” Supervisors requested that priority be given to locals, including some involved in county-sponsored workforce training for homeless military veterans.
Puck and his team were not the only group vying for the opportunity to open a new restaurant on the coveted plot—and representatives from Crews, another food business, called into question the methods used by supervisors when selecting Puck and his team. According to their representatives, they were second in line behind PCH Beach Associates.
“We’re extremely disappointed with the current recommendation,” said Nicholas Buford of Crews, who added that there were “substantial errors” in the proposal provided by Puck’s team.
“With all due respect, even celebrities must follow the rules,” added his associate, Greg Plummer.
The decision to go with Puck’s team came about based largely on a point system used by county staff, in which PCH Beach Associates came out about 80 points ahead of the competition.
Buford and Plummer hired an attorney to challenge the process but, according to the county’s legal counsel, they “firmly believe the process was appropriate and legally defensible.”
Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl—Malibu’s representative—was enthusiastic about proposed changes coming to the restaurant in her district.
“This agreement exemplifies the exciting synergy of talent, cultural and culinary work so prevalent in Los Angeles County today,” Kuehl said. “Two local icons, chef Wolfgang Puck and architect Frank Gehry, are offering to combine forces with LA County to reimagine one of our legendary landmarks and transform it into a world-class, must-see, must-eat dining destination.”
The 46-year-old restaurant just last weekend debuted a new menu. Its lease—which was up in the air in 2016—was renewed for at least two more years and owners are working to revamp its image before the new restaurant comes in to take its place.