Employees exemplify self-help at its best, saving their restaurant by operating the eatery themselves 

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Assistant General Manager Alexander Pension, with Gladstone's employees, smiles for a photo before opening the restaurant on Thursday, Aug. 24. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

Gladstones is open, has a great new menu, and invites locals to celebrate the iconic eatery’s new summer fare

By Barbara Burke 

Special to the Malibu Times

In August 2023, locals and visitors alike were dejected when they heard that Gladstones, the more-than-50-year-old iconic restaurant at Sunset and the Pacific Coast Highway, was slated to close in the following October. Before the pandemic, there was talk that Wolfgang Puck and some investors might reopen the property as a redesigned eating establishment. Puck had promised to deliver “an approachable, high quality cuisine space in a distinct architectural setting,” when his redevelopment concept was first announced in 2018. 

Many who grew up going to Gladstones were aghast that the iconic restaurant would close indefinitely in the Fall of 2023. The loyal employees and management team simply could not abide the classic restaurant closing. So, instead of simplyresigning themselves, bemoaning the idea, and acquiescing in the eatery’s closure, they rallied and formed Gladstones Legacy Group, a consortium of long-standing employees, including Jim Harris, who serves as general manager, as well as chefs, members of the management team, and the guy who runs the parking lot. 

Determined to keep operating the restaurant while Wolfgang Puck and his investors went through the protracted, bureaucratic process of getting county approval for their project, Gladstones Legacy Group secured a contract to operate the iconic site from the County’s Department of Beaches and Harbors. They have authority to temporarily operate Gladstones through Sept. 15, 2025.

School’s out for Summer, and Gladstones is open for business.

In life, it’s good that some things seldom change and, as one enters Gladstones, it’s heartening that the familiar, large entry deck that is open to the public warmly embraces visitors, evoking the comforting and familiar sense  one feels when visiting an old friend.

The Malibu Times recently attended a tasting highlighting the summer menu. Harris and his entire team warmly welcomed guests and treated us to a first look at — and delicious tastes of — specialty cocktails with fun names such as The Lovely One, featuring Meili Vodka; fresh market peaches; pineapple; Coco Lopez; Coral Champagne and dark rum; fresh, tasty salads; and seasonal dishes creatively using summertime ingredients.

From the delicious beet salad with feta cheese, candied walnuts and a lemon poppy seed dressing, to coastal crab cakes, creatively presented with chipotle aioli and a fennel and orchid salad, to surf and sand dabs, to New England diver scallops with risotto, to grass fed wagyu skirt steak with shaved brussels sprout salad, to Dick’s Summer Split, a dessert with caramelized banana, chocolate and vanilla ice cream — the food is fresh, fantastic and fun! 

What’s next for the Gladstones property?

Through a competitive process, PCH Beach Associates, LLC/Wolfgang Puck, was selected for the redevelopment of the restaurant site, according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath’s office. 

None other than the brilliant architect Frank Gehry has designed the new space. The Gladstones site is owned by Los Angeles County and sits on a 2.8-acre parcel abutting the Pacific Coast Highway and Will Rogers State Beach — an idyllic setting for a space exuding Gehry’s architectural genius.

PCH Beach Associates’ project is in the permitting process and is on track to submit a Coastal Development Permit application, according to Horvath’s office. 

However, in the interim, many locals are patronizing Gladstones because there’s something, well, so very American, when a customer knows that employees cared enough about the place they work, and were so proud of its ethos, that they went to the trouble to save the establishment. 

Well done, Gladstones Legacy Group! It makes locals want to help celebrate the legacy!