Editor’s Note: Renees’ Courtyard Café has been sold to a new owner, and the family who founded the Café no longer owns it as of Sunday. The new owner intends to run it as Renee’s for several weeks to a couple of months until such time a new concept is put in place. The original owners said they had to sell Renee’s due to the skyrocketing rent and their landlord unwilling to work with them to keep Renee’s going.
Most Santa Monicans will wake up today and not realize that their city has changed. A part of the city has been lost forever. Today a special place, Renee’s Courtyard Café at 522 Wilshire Boulevard, has closed to be replaced by another chain restaurant. Today Santa Monica is a little less Santa Monica and a lot more Orange County. To those of you who never stumbled into Renee’s you have no idea what you have missed.
When I first moved to Santa Monica from the OC I felt like I fit right in. The unique shops, the beach, the pier, the uniquely individual homeless people all overcame the blandness of the 3rd Street Promenade to make me feel at home. But discovering Renee’s is what made me truly fall in love with Santa Monica. The first time I walked into the dark entry way I was curious and a little intimidated. I was greeted by one of the sweetest women that I have ever met. I sat on one of the four bar stools and felt like I had come home.
This was the west coast version of Cheers and I soon became Norm. Shelly, Sam, Carla, Coach and Woody all had counterparts in Shira, Leia, Jack, Brother John, Whitney, Darian and Renee herself. My side kick Cliff was not a postal carrier but one of the funniest and most cynical attorneys that you have ever met.
I never tired of watching tourist walk in and seeing if they instantly felt the charm of Renee’s like so many of us did or if they went running back to the corporate sterility of a Yardhouse, Hooters or Dave & Busters. On any given night you might have rubbed elbows with a famous actor, musician or athlete and not even known it.
It was a place I could take a date on a Sunday evening to listen to Simon or one of his guest’s acoustic and surreal music. If my date didn’t feel the magic then I knew she wasn’t for me. And if one of those dates tuned out to be mentally unstable and later came looking for me at Renee’s (where they all knew to find me) I knew that the bartender would have my back and send me a text warning me.
Today I am filled with sadness. For Santa Monica has lost some of the personality she had yesterday.
Mark Evans, aka Norm Peterson