A heartfelt goodbye at the Ritz

While Valentine's Day promises love for some, it marks an imminent end to the longstanding love affair between the Ritz Restaurant and its current Newport Beach location.

Facing a Feb. 28 deadline to vacate its premises near Fashion Island, the restaurant is preparing to host its final meals Friday and Saturday.

Patrons will arrive Friday to a $95 four-course Valentine's Day dinner. The next day, a $150 three-course lunch will be followed by a $250 four-course dinner. Proceeds from Saturday will be divided among all staff working that day, said restaurant Controller Laurie Virtue. Both dinners were fully booked as of Thursday afternoon.

The doors to the Ritz, which has been on the first floor of the office building at 880 Newport Center Drive since 1982, will close to diners after that.

While the owner of the Ritz continues to work out negotiations for a possible move to a new location, nothing has been finalized, leaving staff and loyal patrons at a loss.

"This is a family," Virtue said. "We've shared weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, births, deaths, just like any family. We've been through all of that together."

No more will waitresses waltz into work and apply their ruby red lipstick. No more will the Ritz Egg be placed in front of eagerly awaiting guests — at least until a new home is found.

Much of the familiar hardware will go too. An auction of restaurant items will take place at 11 a.m. Feb. 23, with a preview set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 22. Those who wish to participate must pay a $500 cash deposit, which will be applied to a purchase or refunded if no purchases are made, Virtue said.

The auction will include glassware, silverware and kitchen equipment, plus perhaps some art.

The Irvine Co., which declined to renew the lease for the Ritz, plans to convert the den-like space to office use.

Plans include creating an open office area, with a high ceiling, modern finishes and lots of sunlight streaming inside, said Mike Lyster, Irvine Co. spokesman.

Patio space will blend with the indoor room, he added, with Wifi available inside and out.

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