It’s finally time to say aloha to Don the Beachcomber. After a two year fight to keep the historic building that once housed the legendary Sam’s Seafood and the home of tiki culture in OC for the last 10 years, owner Delia Wu Snyder just announced that the restaurant and lounge is officially closing Sunday, April 15.
“Even though we’ve struggled to stay in business throughout these these years, we are saddened to inform everyone that we’ll be closing our doors,” Snyder writes, citing increasing rent obligations. “It has been a difficult journey to come to this decision. While this is a short goodbye for now, this is not forever. We have been diligently working to find a new home, which we will be announcing shortly. Stay tuned!”
Two weeks ago, Don’s celebrated its 10th year in business with the Ohana Gathering featuring two days of surf rock bands, hula dancers, tiki art displays and dancing.
Spike Marble, the lead singer and creator of The Hula Girls, has played well over 100 shows with the band during their eight year residency at the 15,000 square foot restaurant and drew a full house at what would be the venue’s final festivities.
“It’s really hard to wrap my mind around,” Marble says. “The end is here, it was a financial situation, the new land owner pushed them out by making the rent inoperable for their budget.”
In 2015, when the new owner of the land on which Don’s was built pushed to shutter the place and use the land for high density housing. City officials considered rezoning the 10.7-acre lot that includes Don the Beachcomber to potentially allow condos but ultimately decided against it thanks to the community of Sunset Beach fought back in city council meetings and various email and online protests. At the time, it was decided that Don’s would be able to stick around, but those who were following the situation closely realized it was inevitably going to close. Sources say the new landlord increased Don’s rent to a whopping $35,000 per month, an exorbitant amount for just about any business, especially one as big and old as the mid-century tiki bar, despite its devoted following. Last month, beloved reggae performer Fully Fullwood announced that their latest edition of Reggae Sundays would be their last. Fullwood’s crowd of shocked fans rushed the place and packed the dance floor to the point where the event was almost shut down several times.
Aside from Fullwood’s announcement, all of the other performances at Don’s have been moved to other venues.
Snyder’s pick for the new location is still unknown but for artists in the surf rock, tiki and reggae community, the hope is that they’ll find a way to keep music alive in their new space, where ever it lands.
“It’s too bad because even mid-century stuff found a home at that place, it was such a perfect setting for all of those genres,” Marble says. “There’s a million clubs that don’t matter because of the lack of history or the look of them and Don the Beachcomber was a really special place it was a place where people celebrated, had birthdays and special memories, we’re losing more than just a restaurant.”
See Snyder’s full statement below.