After the Original Ritz– which was founded in 1972– shut its doors in early 2014, we reported back in late 2014 that it was set to re-open, as it did around October of 2015, setting up shop on the old Chart House space on PCH– a few miles down from the original Fashion Island location.
The original location closed so that the Irvine Company could build on the plot. Unfortunately, the new owners didn’t keep anything but the name, confusing customers. The steak-focused dinners were replaced by seafood, and the “old money mahogany feel” was replaced with a “Futuristic Apple Store” look of “new money” and high-design. The old name wound up simultaneously repelling new clients that it was targeting, while the modern design and menu were repelling the old clients which were not a part of the new focus. This meant the whole concept had to be rebuilt from the ground up– with a lot of barriers in the way.
As it became obvious that the name needed to change, rumors say that the property owner said he would double the already-overpriced rent if they changed their name, sealing the fate of the business which was stuck between a rock and a hard-place.
Out-of-towners soon swooped in and dropped Vegas money into the restaurant to boom some life into it, but the lease and its absurd terms were too much to bear for the modern restaurant which still bears the image of its classic founder, Hans Prager.
Last night, after giving their employees just 3 days notice, the Ritz served its final dinner.
A beautiful location stifled by a concept unable to change direction, and a great meal which we can always remember– Old Ritz or New.