HUNTINGTON BEACH : Ruby Group Picked to Run Pier Eatery

A Costa Mesa firm that operates cafes on the Balboa and Seal Beach piers has been selected to run a restaurant to be built on the end of the reconstructed pier here as well.

The City Council this week chose the Ruby Restaurant Group to operate the eatery that will replace the landmark End Cafe, which was destroyed during January, 1988, by storms that eventually forced the closure of the entire pier.

The company and the city have yet to agree on a name for the new restaurant, but it will not be allowed to incorporate "End Cafe" into its moniker. The rights to the End Cafe name belong to John Gustafson, who died last year.

After the death of Gustafson, who had run the thriving restaurant since 1975, the city began seeking an operator for a new cafe at the end of the pier.

The new restaurant, which city officials project will draw upward of $1.5 million in sales each year, will include surfing and other Huntington Beach motifs in its design instead of the 1950s look of other Ruby's restaurants. In addition to its two pier locations, Ruby's operates restaurants at shopping centers in Costa Mesa, Fullerton and Mission Viejo.

The group is also scheduled to operate a separate snack stand and bait shop, although the council has yet to formally approve those buildings on the new pier.

The restaurant will be 1,400 feet off the coast and is scheduled to open along with the new pier in spring, 1992. Ruby's will lease the building from the city for $4.6 million, to be paid over a 20-year period.

Douglas Langevin, a downtown resident, argued that council members should not choose Ruby's for the new restaurant because it would create a concessionaire "monopoly" on Orange County's three most northerly piers.

"We really tried to get something besides a chain for our pier concessionaire," said Councilwoman Grace H. Winchell, who is also a member of the city's pier design committee. "But for the quality of a restaurant we were looking for, Ruby's really stood out."

The End Cafe was a popular gathering spot, growing almost as well-known as the pier itself. But it had a history of bouts with nature.

Five years before the cafe was finally destroyed by fierce winds and waves, it was pummeled so badly by storms that it took nearly two years to rebuild.

To help prevent the new restaurant from meeting the same fate, the new pier will be taller than the existing one.

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