Laguna Beach’s Ocean at Main restaurant will close Feb. 5, saddening fans and chamber – Los Angeles Times

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A little over a year since it first opened in October 2018, the Ocean at Main restaurant in Laguna Beach is closing.

Owner and chef Craig Strong said the last day of service at the downtown establishment will be Feb. 5. The closure is prompted by rising costs of rent and labor, he said in a news release.

Support poured in on the restaurant’s social media channels following the announcement Sunday.

“This is horrible news. I had one of the best meals ever in your restaurant a few months ago. Please keep us posted where you end up. Come to Long Beach!!” one commenter said on Instagram.

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Another wrote: “Sad to see you leave!!!! This happens way too often in OC! So expensive to run a business here.”

On the restaurant’s Facebook page, commenters left suggestions of new locations Strong could explore, while others offered their condolences.

Strong declined a request for an interview, but Talia Samuels, a spokeswoman for Ocean at Main, said he’s seeking a new location and hopes to remain in Laguna Beach.

“Since 2018, we have loved serving and connecting with the Laguna Beach community,” Strong said in his announcement. “Ocean at Main has been the adventure of a lifetime, and we are honored to have served so many wonderful guests, created lifelong friendships and hosted so many memorable celebrations.”

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Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, executive director of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, called the closure “devastating” news.

“Ocean at Main is one of the premier restaurants in our local community and Chef Strong is one of the premier chefs,” Hornbuckle-Arnold said. “It speaks volumes to the current state of retail in our downtown area. I’m sure there isn’t any one reason why Ocean at Main is closing. I think it’s a culmination of the many struggles our local businesses endure on a daily basis.”

She noted that several restaurants have closed in the past year.

“We hear everything from not enough foot traffic with the Hotel Laguna being shuttered, mix of use requirements, rent to parking issues. It’s not a scientific answer and I’m not sure there is one,” she said.

Strong’s 4,500-square-foot, 126-seat restaurant opened Oct. 5, 2018 at 222 Ocean Blvd. and replaced Taverna, which closed earlier that year after about two years in business.

Strong, whose culinary career spans more than 25 years, served nine years as executive chef at Studio in the Montage Laguna Beach resort before he opened Ocean at Main.

The San Diego native also worked for other hotel restaurants, including the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta and Langham Huntington in Pasadena. His training began at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md.

“Ocean at Main is a different project for me, as it’s my own freestanding restaurant versus the fine-dining restaurants in luxury hotels I’ve enjoyed working at throughout my profession,” Strong said in 2018. “I’m excited to start this new chapter in my career.”

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Strong described Ocean at Main’s menu as coastal California cuisine, using fresh and local products, along with classic French techniques and Spanish-Mediterranean food.

“We are wholeheartedly grateful for our hard-working staff who brought this place to life and for our guests and regulars who called our restaurant home,” he said in the closure announcement.

“As a Laguna Beach local, it breaks my heart to see the challenges the restaurant community faces in Laguna Beach and across California,” he said. “When one door closes, another opens … and I look forward to serving you again soon.”

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Source: Thanks https://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/story/2020-01-29/laguna-beachs-ocean-at-main-restaurant-will-close-feb-5-saddening-fans-and-chamber