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Signs of life in long-shuttered Montrose cafe spur hopes of an opening — or two

Rocky Cola Café, which closed on at the end of December, 2012, still stands vacant in Montrose on Fr
Rocky Cola Cafe, which closed in 2012, is one of two long-vacant restaurant spaces on Honolulu Avenue in Montrose. A recent sign in the other one, Pink Pig Cafe, announcing an application for an alcohol permit, has reignited discussion about their possible opening dates.
(Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

When a sign went up last month in the window of the long-planned Pink Pig Cafe in Montrose announcing the owners were seeking a permit to sell beer and wine, local business owners and nearby residents took note.

“Every day, customers are asking, ‘What’s going on? When are they going to open?’” said Mary Dawson, owner of a clothing store down the block from the space that’s been shuttered for nearly three years. “They are not happy about it. It’s a negative and a bad reflection on our town.”

While no opening date has been announced, Glendale city officials approved the alcohol permit on May 8, according to Betty Barberena, the city’s planner for the project located at 2325 Honolulu Ave.

That administrative-use permit was the only pending application for the site, but Barberena said the owners may have to pull additional permits depending on their intentions.

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Andre Ordubegian, president of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn., said he’s been in contact with the owner, Jeff Williams, and that the project is progressing. Williams owns two nearby restaurants — Star Cafe and Black Cow Cafe.

“Our fingers are crossed after all these years,” said Ordubegian, adding that he hopes the restaurant can open within the next few months.

Once home to Montrose Bakery, the property changed hands shortly after former owner Henry Baeza retired in 2015, Dawson said. By spring 2016, Cafe Rose opened in the space, but appears to have closed within a year. The property has been dark ever since.

The Pink Pig isn’t the only vacant restaurant space on the street. Since 2012, the former home of Rocky Cola Cafe, located at 2201 Honolulu and also once leased by Williams, has been shuttered. It opened in 1988. It’s located on a prominent corner at the main entrance to the Montrose Shopping Park for motorists or pedestrians coming from the east.

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National restauranteur Tom Christopoulos, of La Cañada Flintridge, took over the lease of the former Rocky Cola space from Williams by July 2017 and soon announced he would be opening a “family-oriented” restaurant called Gus & Andy’s Montrose Grill.

Glendale officials have extended the project’s plan-check process — the time frame during which building plans are reviewed to make sure they comply with the city’s code — until July 24, according to Joseph Rodarte, with Glendale’s building and safety department. The plan-check process began when an application was submitted in January 2018, he added.

Currently, the project owner needs to resolve an issue with its back exit, which discharges into someone else’s property, according to Dennis Joe, the city planner assigned to the project.

Those issues are handled by the city’s building and safety department, not planning, Joe said, adding, “I haven’t touched this project in a while.”

Initially, Christopoulos intended to open the casual-dining spot last year.

“Typically, with the process, no one gets it right on the first time,” said Rodarte, who is not the plan checker for the project.

Ordubegian said he hopes “that the process goes a little faster. ... This [project], in particular, is taking a long time.”

With what he describes as the shopping district’s two “anchor corners” closed, “it’s just an eyesore,” he added.

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If the building clears plan check, the owner has a year to pull a building permit and begin construction, Rodarte said.

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