A long-term lease for the Proud Bird restaurant, a popular aerospace-industry hangout near LAX, was approved Thursday by the Los Angeles airport commission after years of negotiations and community efforts to save the landmark from sharply rising rents.
"The Proud Bird lives," said Commissioner Jackie Goldberg, just before she and her colleagues voted unanimously to award a 20-year lease to the dining establishment that has occupied the same site on Aviation Boulevard for 57 years.
The agreement will generate at least $4.6 million in revenue for Los Angeles World Airports and provide $5 million to $6 million in renovations to be made by the owner to the restaurant's aging building.
Officials for the city's airport department, which owns the property, said the improvements would include a new roof, a gift shop and structural upgrades so the building complies with current codes.
"Two years ago, I had given up on the Proud Bird," said John Tallichet, the owner of the business and son of the restaurant's founder, David Tallichet. "Through the efforts of many community members we will be able to stay open. I appreciate what everyone has done."
Airport officials originally wanted to boost the annual rent to $500,000, but they reached an agreement with Tallichet to gradually increase lease payments over the next two years from $10,000 to $20,145 a month. In 2018, a $5,000 monthly building fee will be added along with land rent that has yet to be determined.
The Proud Bird is immediately east of the southern runways at Los Angeles International Airport. It has displays of 20 vintage aircraft on its grounds and hundreds of photographs on the walls that document the history of aviation in Southern California.
There are special exhibits dedicated to major aerospace companies, famous figures in aviation and the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American combat pilots who served with distinction in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.
The restaurant and banquet facilities have long served the public, community groups, local elected officials and Los Angeles World Airports, which uses the Proud Bird for public meetings to discuss LAX projects.
"Now that we know the Proud Bird will be here for us and won't be flying away, we can make plans for future events," said Clint Simmons, a member of the Black Pilots Assn. and longtime restaurant patron.
The new lease also mentions another local aviation landmark — the Flight Path Learning Center and Museum off Imperial Highway on the south side of LAX. Airport officials have been interested in relocating the facility, a proposal that has angered center supporters.
The rental agreement states that Tallichet can increase his lease by 10 years if he can make a deal with the Flight Path within three years to move to the Proud Bird's site. Tallichet said he would not approach the Flight Path about relocating.
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