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Huntington State Beach upgrades with the Huntington Beach House

Prjkt chief executive Alicia Whitney raises the ceremonial scissors during a ceremony for the Huntington Beach House.
Prjkt chief executive Alicia Whitney raises the ceremonial scissors during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Huntington Beach House on Thursday in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Alicia Whitney wanted it to be special.

The Huntington Beach resident knew it was a big responsibility to create an upgraded concessions experience at Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway.

“I spent years imagining and thinking,” she said. “This is the first thing you see when you get into Huntington Beach. It had to be iconic. It had to be the best of the best.”

The Huntington Beach House is what Whitney and her team at Prjkt Restaurant Group came up with, and it opened for business on Huntington State Beach on July 24.

The new concessions spot contains a full bar with a 120-foot seated counter overlooking the beach. On the other side of the Huntington Beach House, there are chairs and sandboxes with 13 dine-in fire pits, with another area that can host special events.

Enjoying a cocktail at the beach is now no problem, Whitney said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning. The Huntington Beach House is the one of four concessions she and her team have imagined for the state beach that has a full liquor license.

Prjkt CEO Alicia Whitney speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Huntington Beach House on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Also now open is the Sand Box Beach Essentials, located at Newland Street and PCH, which supplies beach goers items such as surfboard rentals or firewood purchases, through a group of lockers.

It also offers rentals like large coolers or Bluetooth speakers, for those so inclined.

“It works like a minibar,” Whitney said. “Use a QR code, it pops open the door. When you put it back, it charges you for the rental. If you take it, it charges you for the item.”

The new concessions areas are two of four that Prjkt (pronounced “Project”) is planning as part of a 10-year partnership with the California State Park System. Sahara’s Sandbar, a pizza place named after Whitney’s daughter, is set to open this fall at Magnolia Street and PCH. California Fork and Spoon, located at Brookhurst and PCH, is scheduled to open next spring.

Whitney, the Prjkt founder and chief executive, already opened four concessions spots at Bolsa Chica State Beach. She said the new outdoor concessions at Huntington State Beach differ from those locations in that they each have the same footprint, though they offer different experiences.

In-line skaters cruise along a pedestrian path in front of the newly opened Huntington Beach House on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

California State Parks Orange County Supt. Kevin Pearsall said the Bolsa Chica concessions have gone above and beyond his expectations, and he also marveled at the Huntington Beach House. For example, he said it has options for his teenage daughter, who is a vegetarian.

“In traveling around to other countries, you always see how proud and how beautiful the locations are for restaurants and concessions on their beaches,” Pearsall said. “Australia, New Zealand, Europe. There are always breathtaking experiences there. I never really envisioned, as a California native, seeing that much on our beaches. We always saw the simplicity, the basics — the hot dogs, the hamburgers, the Pepsi. That is all great in itself, but I never understood why we didn’t have beautiful locations like this in our concession stands.

“Hopefully this is a thriving new path that state parks in all of California will take, so that we can really be proud of our beaches and what we have on them.”

Kelly Miller, the president and chief executive of Visit Huntington Beach, also attended Thursday’s ceremony. He said his organization wants Huntington Beach to be the quintessential California beach destination.

“When you say Huntington Beach or Surf City USA around the world, people think Jan and Dean, they think s’mores, they think fire pits, they think this eight-and-a-half or nine miles of beach,” he said. “There’s just something special about that. That’s what a genuine brand really is, to connect that emotion with what people are experiencing here. I just think it’s wonderful.”

An employee sets out skimboards at the newly opened Sand Box Beach Essentials hub on Thursday in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Asked about her legacy, Whitney at first just laughed.

“I didn’t want to be a businessperson, I wanted to create concepts,” she said. “To think of something and watch people come and enjoy themselves, off of something that was in my brain, it’s like creating magic, right? It’s kind of like painting life.”

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