La Cañada restaurant-goers were stunned this spring when they heard the Flintridge Proper — a high-end bar and restaurant known for its extensive gin selection, handcrafted cocktails and happy hour bites — had closed its doors for good.
“The Proper is Closed. For those who supported us these last five years, we thank you,” read a printed notice displayed in the storefront window in early April.
Speculation about the closure spread on social media while former owner Brady Caverly remained silent. Caverly broke his silence last week, to share what led to his decision to shutter the popular eatery and to announce a new owner had been found.
Proper’s closure followed a series of struggles with inconsistent management, ticketing and customer service on the restaurant side, said Caverly, a former La Cañada resident who opened the neighborhood pub and cocktail bar in 2013.
“It was a variety of things — I was miserable and we were losing money,” he said in an interview last week. “I would love to blame it on something else, but I think its failure rests on my shoulders.”
Inspired by British pub culture, in which bars double as neighborhood gathering spots, Caverly applied his enthusiasm as a product developer and direct-to-consumer marketer to opening a bar that would introduce residents to an approachable brand of mixology.
“I was not a restaurateur,” he said. “I had no intention of running the restaurant. My plan was really to have competent managers to run it, and that just didn’t happen.”
As years went by, complaints about service and timing in the restaurant racked up, even as the Proper’s upscale bar continued to succeed.
Caverly thought he’d found a lifeline early last year when he teamed up with Franklin Bator Jr., who’d worked several years managing the Traxx Restaurant at L.A.’s Union Station. The pair had been working to relaunch the business under a new chef and had gone public with their intentions.
But when Bator told Caverly he’d accepted another job, it seemed time to call it quits at the Proper.
“That was the final nail in the coffin,” the former owner said.
A new Proper emerges
Caverly confirmed the Flintridge Proper’s assets have been sold to a new restaurant group, whose founders plan to retain some version of the name and the general concept. On Tuesday, two members of the newly formed Proper Hospitality Group confirmed they’d renegotiated a 15-year lease on the commercial space and shared their plans for the future.
David Yost has a long experience running several restaurants — Canoe House and Shakers in South Pasadena, Alhambra’s Diner on Main, Central Park in Pasadena and Glendale’s Central Grille — alongside family members. But for this endeavor, he’s teaming up with wife Cater Lee Yost and friends Rick and Lisa Anderson in an equal partnership.
A former La Cañada resident who once lived within walking distance of the Proper, Yost recalls being impressed with the new bar and restaurant when it opened in 2013.
“I was blown away over how beautiful the place was,” he said. “The bar was one of the nicest bars I’d ever seen.”
Yost and Rick Anderson, a senior general manger at Cheesecake Factory who’d spent three decades in the restaurant industry maximizing efficiencies, had talked for years of going in on a venture together. The Proper’s closure piqued their interest.
“Everyone I talk to has a story about going to the Proper,” Anderson said Tuesday. “I’d always loved the concept — it seemed like a natural fit.”
The new owners are currently redesigning the interior in advance of a November opening. Upscale but accessible lunch and dinner menus will highlight simple, fresh ingredients. A “well-appointed” bar will no longer boast a record number of gin varieties but will continue to serve handcrafted cocktails.
The goal is to retain the neighborhood feel patrons enjoyed.
“We’re going to give it a new look and it’s going to have a new menu with an emphasis on customer service,” Yost said. “It’s going to be a place for special occasions or just a great neighborhood hangout — but it is going to be a different dining experience.”