21 Aug 2014
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Chez Jay Designated a Landmark

Nautical-themed restaurant treasured by celebrities and locals alike was poised for a major redo to better match the vibe of the future Palisades Garden Walk.

Chez Jay Designated a Landmark Chez Jay Designated a Landmark Chez Jay Designated a Landmark

With a 6-0 vote Monday night, the Landmarks Commission gave Santa Monica's storied dive bar, Chez Jay, a better shot at never having to change.

The nautical-themed restaurant on Ocean Avenue is now qualified as local landmark, the commission determined, joining a list of prominent local buildings and places that includes Palisades Park and the Santa Monica Pier.

In casting their votes, the commissioners recognized there are few places like Chez Jay left in Santa Monica, or even Los Angeles.

Its floors are dusted with peanut shells and its tables are draped in red and white checkered table cloths. Tales of its past are equally unique. As a commander of Apollo 14, astronaut Alan Sheppard reportedly sneaked aboard a Chez Jay peanut, which he hid in a 35 mm film canister and brought with him to the moon. And, it's rumored that at Table 10, Daniel Ellsberg passed the "Pentagon Papers" to a New York Time's reporter in 1971.

A full report on Chez Jay's history is attached to the right of this article.

In its 50 years, not much has changed. It's still a shabby but popular hangout for an eclectic mix of movie stars, politicians, beachcombers and locals.

When residents learned the city’s 2005 Civic Center Specific Plan called for it to be transformed into an airy, outdoor dining space compatible with the future Palisades Garden Walk, they protested.

The newly-bestowed designation could slow or prevent forced-renovations or demolition, which now require Landmark Commission approval.The use of the building, however, is not protected, and there's still a question about who the property belongs to.

The restaurant sits on land owned by the now defunct Redevelopment Agency, so Santa Monica could lose control of the parcel and its ability to keep the restaurant there. "The state could force the property to be...  sold on the open market, with the proceeds going to taxing entities," Andy Agle, the city's director of Housing and Economic Development, has told the Santa Monica Daily Press.

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