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Elephant Bar Restaurant Closing After 30 Years in Goleta

CEO cites years of financial losses in deciding not to renew the location's lease and shutting the doors for good on Aug. 21

The Elephant Bar Restaurant at 521 Firestone Road in Goleta will close for good Aug. 21 after 30 years in the same location.
The Elephant Bar Restaurant at 521 Firestone Road in Goleta will close for good Aug. 21 after 30 years in the same location.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Goleta’s Elephant Bar Restaurant will close Aug. 21 after 30 years at its location near the Santa Barbara Airport following repeated years of financial losses, according to the restaurant chain owner.

The restaurant at 521 Firestone Road will vacate the space it rents from the airport and will not renew its lease, which is up Sept. 30.

Santa Barbara Airport Director Karen Ramsdell told Noozhawk that she received a letter from Elephant Bar CEO Robert Holden this week explaining plans to permanently close the restaurant — a former flagship of the chain that now has 46 locations, primarily in Southern California.

“It is with great regret that I must write this letter and close a restaurant on which so much history associated with the Elephant Bar Restaurant chain rests,” Holden wrote in a letter the airport received Tuesday. “Our ties with Santa Barbara, our corporate office location in the city for so many years, and you, as a longtime landlord, made this an extremely difficult decision to make.

“However … the financial loss this location has experienced during the past several years makes this decision necessary from a business point of view.”

Ramsdell said she wanted to dispel rumors circulating Wednesday that implied the airport raised the rent or did not want to renew the Elephant Bar lease.

“We are saddened by the loss of a longtime tenant who has been part of the airport’s history, but we certainly understand when difficult business decisions must be made,” she said, noting that having a restaurant in that location has always been a part of the plan. “There’s a sentimental attachment to the restaurant. We would have loved to keep the Elephant Bar into the future. We will have to figure out how we want to fill the space.”

Elephant Bar spokeswoman Leslie Liberatore confirmed the reason for closing Wednesday, calling it a “tough decision” that the owners ultimately had to make because profits haven’t been growing at that location.

Many local organizations use the venue and banquet room to host meetings, including the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, local Rotary clubs and UC Santa Barbara groups.

Assistant General Manager Oscar Alcerro said employees were told about the pending closure last Friday.

“It was up in the air for a few months,” he said. “There’s not going to be another one in Santa Barbara. We’re just sad because we had a lot of regular guests. We employed a lot of students, so it’s sort of sad for all of them as well as for management.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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