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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

October 11, 2016 -- After a quarter century at Santa Monica Airport, the Typhoon restaurant will close next month, another victim of the beach city's rising rents.

Known for its live music and unobstructed views, the popular Pan Asian restaurant overlooking the runway is “folding its wings” after Election Night on November 8, said owner Brian Vidor.

The restuarant is being forced out after the City tripled its rent in an effort to remove tenants as it tries to shutter the embattled airport, Vidor said. The skyrocketing rent would have caused financial ruin, he said, adding that he doesn't want to re-open in another location.

“It would take years and years,” he said. “I’m 70 and I have three grandchildren.”

Picture of Band Playing at Typhoon restaurant
Band playing at Typhhon restaurant (Courtesy of Typhoon)

Typhoon joins a lengthening list of iconic, decades-old spots disappearing from the city, often the victims of rising rents or new development.

After a century on Santa Monica Boulevard, Busy Bee Hardware is expected to exit to make room for hospital parking ("Santa Monica Unlikely to Avoid Another Iconic Store's Possible Departure," October 5, 2016).

Iconic bookstores are already gone, as is The Tudor House, a half-century-old British tearoom downtown that couldn’t survive a recession and rising rents and closed in 2012.

Vidor said customers are distressed as they learn that Typhoon is following suit and predicted that the live music that helped make the restaurant such a popular Westside destination will be sorely missed, he said.

“All the live music, it’s hard to find,” he said. “The musicians are really hurt by this.”

Neither Vidor nor the City would provide specifics of the negotiations, including the new rental rate.

A City spokesperson, however, said negotiators did as much as they could to keep Typhoon at the airport.

Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor to the City Manager on airport affairs, said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that leases for airport tenants be negotiated to include market rate rents.

“We recognize that Typhoon has been there a very long time,” Hernandez said. “We offered the very low end” of the market-rate scale. “He (Vidor) agreed in principal. We went back and forth.”

But Hernandez said it was Vidor’s choice to end negotiations and close the restaurant, located on the airport’s south side.

“It’s unfortunate,” Hernandez said.

Vidor said the end was not “amicable.”

In his statement, Vidor said he was a victim of the City’s battle to shut down the century-old airport surrounded by densely populated neighborhoods in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica ("Santa Monica Council Votes for 2018 Airport Closure," August 25, 2016).

The City handles 207 leases at the airport and 198 subleases, according to a recent City report. Some of SMO’s buildings are owned by the City; others are owned by tenants but will become the City's property when the leases expire.

Last year, the City decided to negotiate new leases among its airport tenants, which include studios for artists, businesses, a movie theater, and a number of restaurants and offices. They include newcomer Snapchat -- a popular multimedia mobile app granted a $3 million-a-year, five-year lease in May by the City Council.

SMO’s largest tenant, Gunnell Properties, left in February. Critics said it was paying far below market level in rent and then hauling in big profits by subleasing to other tenants.

Meanwhile, two fixed-base operators, Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers, have been ordered to vacate by October 15 as the City prepares to take over aviation-support services ("Major Santa Monica Airport Tenant Issued Eviction Notice," September 16, 2016).

Vidor believes the City is trying to clear the site. “They’re just trying to get everyone out,” he told the Lookout on Monday.

“Despite the lawsuits currently in motion between the city and the FAA, there appears to be little hope of a reprieve from the city’s anti-airport master-plan, which seems determined to shut down every business at SMO so that the property can be repurposed as a giant investment opportunity for developers,” Vidor said in the website statement.

“In some quarters, this sort of activity would be seen as a deplorable abuse of municipal power, but in Santa Monica, it is becoming business-as-usual,” he said. “It’s just too exhausting and disheartening to continue to throw good money after bad into this never ending shell-game of political brinksmanship.”

Although the City Council vows to transform the airport’s acreage into a “Great Park” akin to Central Park in New York City, Vidor’s claim that development is coming instead is often repeated by the council’s critics.

But Council Member Kevin McKeown, who has reiterated the City’s intent to create a park, said Monday that was not the issue at heart in the Typhoon negotiations.

The owner “wanted to renew his lease, then sell the restaurant to a new operator and retire,” McKeown said. “When the sale fell through, he decided to quit and blame it on the city. This has nothing to do with development."

Vidor had no additional comment.

His statement said Typhoon is using its final weeks for an “End of the World Party” timed for after election night.

"In view of the ways that this historic election-night may bring such radical changes to all of our lives that we may not even recognize ourselves the next morning, we have decided to live out these remaining days in celebratory style,” he said.

The council itself “is a political wrecking ball,” he said, noting that four council seats are up for grabs in November.

In its final days, Typhoon is bringing back favorite menu items, a wide variety of live performances from musical artists and special events, such as the “Big-Screen-TV-Nights” for remaining political debates and for election night as well.

Furniture, fixtures and equipment will be sold at auction, with special consideration for long-time customers, he said.

“We hope that these Final Days of Typhoon will live up to the Very Best Days of Typhoon, and that when it’s all over, our shared memories of Typhoon will live on in all our hearts as a beloved, unforgettable, fantastic dream of how good life can be,” Vidor said.

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