The news last month that world-famous celebrity chef Thomas Keller would close the Beverly Hills location of his French restaurant Bouchon on Dec. 31 came as a surprise to some in the L.A. restaurant industry.
“For people like us who appreciate Thomas Keller, it’s a blow,” said Salar Sheik, owner of West L.A. restaurant consultancy Savory Hospitality Group. “I really hope they open something else in L.A.”
Keller said his Yountville-based restaurant group Thomas Keller Restaurant Group couldn’t reach a lease agreement with the city of Beverly Hills, which owns the multistory building at 235 N. Canon Drive.
“We have not been able to find a solution to the adverse conditions impacting our success with our landlord, the City of Beverly Hills, that would provide the proper conditions for the restaurant,” Keller said. “The circumstances no longer exist to operate a profitable restaurant.”
The restaurant group also owns Bouchon locations in Yountville, New York and Las Vegas, as well as two of the country’s highest-profile restaurants, New York’s Per Se and Yountville’s French Laundry.
The city responded in a statement that it had reduced the restaurant’s rent more than 50 percent from the original 2009 lease and granted a tenant improvement allowance.
“As a local government and as stewards of public assets, we have a fiduciary duty to our tax payers and we are unable to do anymore,” the city said.
The restaurant’s monthly rent for its approximately 12,400-square-foot space is just over $53,000, compared with almost $97,000 when it first signed the lease, according to Therese Kosterman, the city’s public information manager.
Savory Hospitality’s Sheik said the closure could be attributed to a mix of issues, including the increasing costs of doing business, more competition in the Golden Triangle area and the growing popularity of quick-service restaurants.
“In general, it’s getting harder and harder to conduct the business of sit-down restaurants in Los Angeles County,” he said. “Every restaurant is fearing the day the minimum wage goes up; product and insurance costs are going up.”
However, Sheik doesn’t think Keller’s departure will give his clients pause about opening a new restaurant in Beverly Hills.
“It’s mostly for the image, like the retailers on Rodeo Drive. (They’re) not the best-selling (locations), but they’re noticed,” he said.