The iconic lighthouse that so perfectly set the theme for Rusty’s Pizza Parlor on Cabrillo Boulevard in Santa Barbara will no longer guide customers into the restaurant, which has closed to make way for a city bridge replacement project.
Rusty’s owners Roger and Carol Duncan told Noozhawk that the location closed last week and will reopen sometime this summer in the former Be Bop Burger at 111 State St. after extensive renovations.
The restaurant at 15 E. Cabrillo Blvd. and its large outdoor patio are connected to the Cabrillo Bridge, which will be removed and replaced later this year as part of Santa Barbara’s Lower Mission Creek Flood Control Project.
Rusty’s is vacating the leased space ahead of the September construction start date, with no plans to return after buying the new nearby building.
Loyal patrons of the parlor were still learning of the move Monday.
Some walked past posted closure signs and through the open front door, where Movegreen employees carefully worked to pack and move rare, lighthouse antiques into storage.
“Are they open?” a man asked.
Movers clad in green T-shirts looked up to shake their heads.
The Duncans, who own seven other local Rusty’s locations, first leased the building at Cabrillo Boulevard and State Street in 1991, back when it was the Crab Shack.
The couple opened The Lighthouse restaurant and installed the famous lighthouse during extensive renovations in 1995, according to Carol Duncan. Shortly after, the space became a Rusty’s themed around the glowing, seaside beacon.
“It’s sad,” Carol Duncan said. “We put a lot of work and effort into it.”
The City of Santa Barbara plans to keep the lighthouse standing, and has been assisting other tenants less affected by the project, according to Adam Hendel, a supervising civil engineer for the city.
He said the Cabrillo Bridge is structurally deficient and needs to be wider and longer to improve creek flow, stormwater capacity, and traffic and pedestrian safety.
The two-year project will be done in three phases that will intermittently close portions of the well-traveled Cabrillo Boulevard.
“We have to disconnect the building from the bridge,” Hendel said. “The bridge itself was built 100 years ago. It’s a much-needed replacement.”
On Monday, Carol Duncan pointed out lighthouse relics from South Africa and elsewhere — antiques that soon will find a home in the new, larger space with more on-site parking. For now they will be placed in storage while renovations take place at the State Street location.
The Duncans said they’re happy for the fresh start, even if it’s sans the lighthouse.
“We’re just excited to have the new location,” Carol Duncan said. “But it won’t be the same.”