James’ Beach, a restaurant in Venice known for the queer community it fostered, closed last month after 26 years.
The closure comes as the pandemic has forced bars and restaurants in Southern California to close or crowdfund to stay afloat. But Eater LA writer Mona Holmes says James’ Beach was no victim of the pandemic. The owners of the restaurant, couple James Evans and Daniel Samakow, were just ready to move on.
“The owners realized that a restaurant like James’ Beach — with their price, with their menu — wasn’t really going to be enough to sustain them for much more,” Holmes says. “Venice is a very different type of city than it was in the 90s.”
Holmes says she will remember the space for its white interior, leather cabins and bath fixtures. But she will also remember the role the space played as a queer refuge in Los Angeles.
When James’ Beach opened, “the Westside was largely quiet when it came to queer spaces,” says Holmes. “They loved Venice. They really felt part of it. They not only worked there, lived there and thrived there. There was just something about them being like, ‘If we’re going to love this place, we’re going to contribute as much as we can to it.'”