The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another business — the popular Beachside Bar-Cafe at Goleta Beach County Park.
The restaurant announced this week that it will close its doors at the end of January, or possibly sooner.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce that after 36 years Beachside Bar-Cafe is closing its doors permanently,” the company posted on Facebook. “We want to thank our local community for your support and patronage through these ever-changing times.”
For nearly four decades, the Beachside — located at the base of the Goleta Pier at 5905 Sandspit Road — has been home to a variety of diners, from families and students to tech and university employees.
“We will continue to be open for takeout roughly until the end of January/till inventories last,” according to the statement.
In an interview with Noozhawk, owner Dave Hardy said the pandemic was the final blow to the restaurant.
“All the restaurants were suffering before the pandemic because of the increase in minimum wage, which does not work well in restaurants,” Hardy said. “Most of the people in restaurants earn tips and make about $25 an hour. They don’t need another $1 an hour to make it $38 an hour. There are a lot of business that are already going out of business because of that.”
The coronavirus, he said, just sent everything over the edge.
“Just selling sandwiches out the back door doesn’t work,” Hardy said. “We have lost a ton of money the past year. We just can’t afford to stay open any longer. We just had to pull the plug. It was real sad.”
Hardy said he had 100 employees before the pandemic hit. Now, he has 10, and “we still can’t make it work.”
He said he was surprised by the outpouring of support after the social media post and that there was a long line of business all day at the restaurant.
“It was real special to the community,” Hardy said. “We are happy we were part of the community.”
Gregg Hart, Second District Santa Barbara County supervisor, said the county, which owns the building, will solicit new restaurant operators.
There is still time remaining on the lease, Hart said, but that it didn’t make sense for them to keep paying with little revenue coming in.
“They weren’t making enough money to keep it going,” he said. “The combination of them being ready to retire and the combination of these things forced their hand.”
Hart said Beachside was “an institution at Goleta Beach.”
“I loved going there for lunch,” Hart said.
The closure means even fewer restaurant options near the Santa Barbara Airport. High Sierra Grill, which had been the Elephant Bar for decades, also closed a year ago.
Beachside was a place where local business executives would take clients to wine-and-dine them with a magnificent ocean view. The restaurant, however, has faced its own set of challenges in recent years with the beach erosion from the waves and high tides. High tides and heavy surf damaged the restaurant, forcing its evacuation and temporary closure.
The social media post set off a tidal wave of heartache.
“This is a big loss for Goleta,” said Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce. “Of all the painful losses we have suffered, this one seems particularly rough.”
Miller said Beachside Bar-Cafe has played a key role in Goleta’s identity for decades.
“It’s the place we gather for important business meetings when you need to impress, and special occasions for families, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries. This is our special place by the sea,” she said. “To lose it, not because of lack of support from the community but because of forces out of our control, is maddening and painful.”
She said Hardy has been “the consummate business gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt, and an active participant in the community and the chamber, supporting many charities and employing many students and young professionals.”
Miller said Hardy taught a lot of people how to do business.
For now, most of the wine list is available for 50% off.
Longtime Goleta resident James Kyriaco, a member of the Goleta City Council, said he feels horrible about the closure of the restaurant.
“Goleta Beach just won’t be the same,” Kyriaco said. “Countless graduations, wedding receptions and other joyous celebrations were held at the Beachside. I feel horrible for our community that won’t be able to create new memories and the employees who will have to find work in this tough economy.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.