Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Trader Vic's is Gone. Long Live Trader Vic's!

Flurry of both bad and good news yesterday regarding the Beverly Hills landmark Trader Vic's.

As reported throughout the day by Eater L.A., the Beverly Hilton location -- first opened in 1955 -- shut down over the weekend without warning.

Of course, we all knew the Trader Vic's location was living on borrowed time -- as we wrote in January, the new Waldorf Astoria set to be built next to the Beverly Hilton would put an end to the Mai Tais at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica.

But given how long it will take to get the proposed hotel approved, I think everyone figured Trader Vic's still had at least another year left in its normal spot.

Then came this weekend's sudden shut down. Now, the semi-good news: It may not have the same kitsch value that 50 years in the same spot had, but Trader Vic's at least will still have a presence at the Beverly Hilton. The restaurant/bar is being located (and downsized, unfortunately) to a new poolside lounge in the hotel.

Eater LA again has the scoop:

The new Trader Vic's Lounge will be located next to the new Circa 55 restaurant and the Aqua Star pool area. The menu will feature Trader Vic's signature drinks including the world-famous Mai Tai, invented by Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron, the Scorpion Bowl and appetizer plates that are ideal for sharing with friends. The press release continues...

"We are pleased that the popularity of Trader Vic's continues to grow around the globe," said Robert Davies, President and CEO of Trader Vic's. "Our loyal patrons and hotel guests can be assured that while the atmosphere may be more casual, our new Beverly Hills offering will continue to reflect the finest of our company's island-style service and culinary quality."

By "more casual" he must mean smaller and less, um, tiki. Sure, some of the decor will be moved over, but it's still basically a renovated lounge filled with Trader Vic's memorabilia. Nonetheless, the new lounge will reopen on May 3. We're told GM Chai Rojana will still be running the show, and many of the bartenders will move to the new digs. Upside: The move will only take three days. Downside: Losing the separate entrance to Vic's, losing Vic's itself, and having to self-park in that crazy parking garage or hit the hotel valet. And if/when there's an event at the Hilton---pretty much always---getting to the tiki lounge will be downright aggravating. Still, the loss of the original 52-year-old institution doesn't taste as sour anymore.

I wonder if this is a temporary fix, or will be Trader Joe's home for the forseeable future. In January, I asked John Maatta, the chief operating officer of The CW network, who just happens to also sit on the board of Trader Vic's (and is the former chairman of the board). He told me that Trader Vic's was actively searching for another location in Los Angeles:

Trader Vic's is having a big re-birth. This year we opened in Scottsdale, and Seattle. We are about to open in Dallas and Las Vegas will open in the Fall —- at a great location on the strip. Trader Vic's Shanghai opened on New Year's Eve. Trader Vic management is actively working LA, although nothing specific is lined-up yet.

Check out all of our past posts on Trader Vic's -- including our Rate-A-Restaurant item from New Year's Eve 2003 -- here.

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