The Ritz to leave Newport Center

The Ritz Restaurant, an institution for more than 30 years, will have to leave its Newport Center location because the Irvine Co. declined to renew its lease.

The lease expires January 2013.

Perhaps the most formal and traditional restaurant in Newport, The Ritz caters to longtime residents who can find its tucked-away spot at the base of an office plaza.

The Irvine Co., which will be trying to fill some adjacent office space, is looking for more modern tenants.

"We celebrate the role The Ritz has played in Newport Beach," Irvine Co. spokeswoman Erin Freeman wrote in a statement. "As we look to reinvest in Pacific Financial Plaza, we are paying close attention to the amenity needs of our nearby office customers."

Freeman wrote that the Irvine Co. is considering a "quick casual café" and a fitness center that would suit "the priorities of today's fast-paced work environment."

Ritz managing partner Ray Jacobi, who has owned it for nearly three years, said he was planning to reinvest in the restaurant and modernize its offerings, but the Irvine Co. bought the building before he could implement the plans.

"We were in a position to take the Ritz into the next quarter-century," he said. "It's just a shame that we weren't able to work things out."

Jacobi said he is looking for a new location, ideally on the waterfront.

Twitter: @mreicher

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