They went under because of deterioration, fire, and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Orange County piers in Seal, Huntington, and Newport Beach are addressing their lost restaurants. City officials are now constructing plans to revamp the piers and bring them back.
NEWPORT BEACH¾ The beloved pier landmarks of Seal, Huntington, and Newport Beach dot the coastline of Orange County, where memories are made by taking sunset selfies and sunrise strolls.
The three iconic piers that once all had restaurants, a perk for visitors strolling over the Pacific Ocean below, now sit vacant, waiting on city officials tasked with creating a future for the popular destinations.
The demolition work on the Newport Beach pier began April 27 and was set to be completed before Memorial Day weekend. Construction crews will remove the structure and restore the wooden pier deck underneath the building.
The demolition work starts the seaside city’s pier revitalization efforts. Locals cheer that it is about time.
“The restaurant has sat vacant for nearly ten years and was deteriorating,” said John Pope, public information manager for Newport Beach. “As a vacant building, it was also an eyesore, and the city frequently heard from residents requesting that it be removed.”
There are no immediate plans for a new restaurant. According to Pope, the city was engaged in talks with potential restaurant owners over the years, but ultimately there was no interest in the property.
“The [Newport Beach] Council has called for an assessment of potential improvements to the Newport Pier and surrounding area, which includes McFadden Square, the adjacent parking lot, and bike path connections,” said Pope. “In the next few months, the city plans to hire an outside firm to conduct research, including extensive community input, on possible improvements for the area. This will be a “visioning” process to take a fresh look at the area, which is the oldest part of Newport Beach and the heart of its beach community.”
An upscale seafood restaurant was set to take over the Newport Beach Pier’s vacant building a few years back before the plans fell through.
As for the Huntington Beach Pier, the iconic Ruby’s Diner, which had served beachgoers since 1996, closed in February 2021.
“In February 2021, a new ownership group, RAV, LLC, purchased the lease and assets for the former Ruby’s building on the Huntington Beach Pier from Huntington Beach Ruby’s through bankruptcy proceedings,” said Jennifer Carey, Huntington Beach public affairs officer. “As a reminder, the City of Huntington Beach owns the building.”
RAV, LLC has since identified a restaurant operator and is in the process of formalizing plans to open a new restaurant in the building. The operators who run the Malibu Farm restaurant and café on the Malibu Pier bought the Ruby’s Diner lease for the Huntington Beach Pier out of bankruptcy and have plans for a pop-up restaurant this summer and a permanent eatery by the end of the year, said Councilman Dan Kalmick in an interview with the OC Register.
“RAV, LLC is currently working with the restaurant operator to finalize a concept menu, transfer the liquor license, and refresh the interior space with a new and updated design,” said Carey.
A fire in 2016 destroyed the vacant Ruby’s Diner at the end of the Seal Beach pier. As a result, Seal Beach city officials began talks with local restaurants. They asked them to provide three different concepts for a restaurant at the end of the pier that would be compatible with the pier and community of Seal Beach.
District One Councilman and Mayor Joe Kalmick confirmed in a May 10 interview that he would meet with the consultants shortly to find out where the consultants are at as far as the project is concerned. The pier is in his district.
Kalmick said consultants had developed three concepts for the end of the pier, and they were charged with three steps:
- Prepare a base plan, which would illustrate “the possible allowable building envelope
- Prepare a conceptual design and economic plans.
- Conduct a public townhall
The goal of preparing the above conceptual plans would be to utilize them to generate public discussion and a general outlook.
“We suggest holding one or more public forums to share the conceptual vision and to have a dialogue with the community attendees on what they do and do not want or like about each concept,” said TEAM Real Estate & TEAM Design in a letter to City Manager Jill Ingram. “Of course, there will be those that do not want to do anything ever, and we would politely note their input, but our main focus would be to coax ‘constructive’ input on both design & function issues and desired uses. The kind of food and drink offerings? For example, pizza by the slice, sandwiches, burger & fries, fish, etc.? Should alcohol be allowed? If so, just beer & wine? Live music?”
On May 10, Kalmick said, “We’re not going to ignore the people that don’t want anything out there.”
Orange County piers are one of the first contact points for tourists to the Orange County beaches. There are five iconic piers in Orange County, from San Clements to Seal Beach. Huntington, Newport, and Seal Beach are the three most visited piers, and city officials believe they will benefit significantly from a revitalization.