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Landmark Restaurant Shuts, Leaves Shortage in Space for Banquets

May 01, 1986|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

Pike's Verdugo Oaks Restaurant, a longtime center of Glendale social and civic life, closed this week, forcing hundreds of weddings and club dinners to scramble for a new banquet hall.

No other Glendale restaurant can handle many big gatherings, officials said. "There is a very large gap," said Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, who said she attended several functions at Pike's every week.

The 29-year-old restaurant and catering facility at 1010 N. Glendale Ave. shut on Sunday because it had been losing money recently, said Richard McLaughlin, the company's president.

"There is no sense fighting a losing battle," he said.

The 2.2-acre property, including a row of stores on the northern edge of the parking lot, is for sale, McLaughlin said, and he would prefer to see another restaurateur buy it. A previous deal to sell Pike's to a developer who wanted to replace it with a shopping mall fell through in December, he said.

Competition Increases

McLaughlin, widower of one of the founders, Mary Pike McLaughlin, said regular customers have been dying and that the younger generation seems to prefer less sedate restaurants for lunch or weekend dates. Meanwhile, competition for banquet business from hotels in nearby cities has increased, he said.

"It's a sad thing, but unfortunately, Pike's has had its day," he said, standing in the parking lot of the restaurant. Nearby, its large sign, which usually announces a charity luncheon, proclaimed: "WE ARE SORRY--CLOSED!" Workmen were putting boards over windows for security.

Other stockholders said the restaurant began to decline with the death of founder Jack Pike in 1980 and slipped further with the death last year of his former wife, Mary Pike McLaughlin, from whom he had been divorced but who still retained a large interest in the business. Problems were exacerbated by feuding between their two sons, stockholders say.

75 Lose Jobs

The shutdown put 75 people out of work and made about 50 Glendale clubs and civic organizations at least temporarily homeless. Besides the many weekly and monthly meetings at Pike's, the banquet halls had reservations for weddings and special events through the beginning of next year, Christopher Pike, vice president and son of the founders, said outside the restaurant office. Pike said he is working with other area restaurants and hotels to move the events. "So far, we've had quite a bit of luck with that," he said.

But that assistance does not seem to console old Pike's loyalists.

"It is quite a shock," said Dr. Harold Havlik, a leader of the Jewel City Toastmasters club, which met there every Wednesday. "Any time a landmark dies, whether by fire or closing, it's somewhat devastating to those who helped make it a landmark in town."

His group has arranged to meet temporarily at Churchill's restaurant on North Glendale Avenue and is looking for a new permanent home.

The West Glendale Kiwanis Club was to hold its annual sewing and modeling contest for about 100 young people and guests at a May 22 dinner at Pike's, where the organization met every Monday, said its president, Bill James.

On Monday, the day after the restaurant quietly served its last meal, James went to Pike's to retrieve the club's banners from a closet, but a committee is still searching for a new dinner site, he said.

"Everybody is shifting around. There's a big scramble," explained Frank De Santis, incoming president of the Glendale Restaurant Assn. He said that no hall in town is large enough to accommodate crowds of more than about 200 and that a lot of Pike's customers appear to be moving to the Burbank Hilton. "Pike's was it as far as Glendale goes," he said.

"This really forces a lot of business out of town and doesn't do any good for the industry in general in Glendale."

De Santis said that several Glendale restaurateurs have told him that they would be interested in buying Pike's, closing its daily restaurant business and operating it just for banquets. But he said the place needs extensive remodeling, which would prove too expensive.

"My guess is that it will be torn down for a mini-shopping mall," De Santis said. "That's an educated guess. But it would still be a shame."

The regular dining rooms at Pike's could seat 160. One banquet room accommodated 350, the other 110. The restaurant, with its large chandeliers, was known for its continental-style service and specialties of steak, shrimp and lobster.

Jack (Jay) Pike Jr., older brother of Christopher, said in a telephone interview that he questioned the wisdom of closing the restaurant so quickly, especially since a big Mother's Day business was expected.

Owner of the Alexander's Brass Rail restaurant in Pasadena, Jack Pike Jr. said that he is trying to think of ways to reopen the Glendale landmark but that any such ideas are "still in the baby stages." Meanwhile, he said, his Pasadena establishment is taking some of the reservations from Glendale.

Jack Pike Jr. said that he has been involved in a dispute with his brother and stepfather over his attempts to sell his own shares in Pike's Verdugo Oaks to an outside party, whom he declined to identify.

Christopher Pike said that Jack Pike Jr. no longer has any authority in the operation of the company and that the family has no plans to reopen the restaurant.

It was reported in December that the Pikes' property had been put into escrow with an offer of $4 million from a developer. McLaughlin this week declined to comment on that price or on any current asking price.

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