Ambitious eatery closes doors

The 10,000 square-foot Brix@1601, a first-of-its-kind South Bay restaurant in the sprawling Hermosa Pavilion, will close its doors Friday, ending a 21-month dream.

“Brix@1601 will be permanently closing on this Friday,” the restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway announced in an email to patrons.

The email offered steep discounts for the purchase of items such as high-end decanters, fine glassware and plates, chandeliers, fine wines and several temperature controlled cabinets.

“It has been a pleasure to be of service to you for the almost two years we have been open,” the email read.

Last summer Gene Shook, who owns the restaurant and the 105,000 square-foot Pavilion in which it stands, received a foreclosure notice on the Pavilion from Preferred Bank, and entered reorganization bankruptcy.

Shook had taken over the Pavilion in 2002 and given it a multimillion-dollar overhaul, after it had long stood dormant at PCH just north of Pier Avenue. He reopened the Pavilion with a large 24 Hour Fitness facility as an anchor, but suffered defections including the upscale Glen Ivy health spa, a children’s music studio, some retailers and professional offices.

Efforts to reach Shook were unsuccessful early this week.
It was April 21, 2008 when Brix opened in handsome spaciousness, with a portion of the restaurant crowned by a vaulted ceiling and groined brick arches, and floored with marble. Celebrity chef Michael McDonald presided over the lavishly equipped kitchen.

The eatery boasted more than 300 wines at table, a kitchen occupying 40 percent of the total space instead of a more typical 20 percent, an accompanying wine shop, 11,000 square feet of wine storage, a lounge for small wine tastings and a catering wing as well.

Shook assembled a pedigreed team including a consultant, a general manager, a sommelier and a pastry chef who had shined at exclusive restaurants near and far.

Restaurant watchers said nothing in recent memory had been attempted in the South Bay.

“I would say this is the most complicated undertaking I have ever been involved in. The execution really has to be seamless or it will be glaringly noticeable,” restaurant consultant Michael Tsue said at the time. Tsue had come to Brix after opening the Mauna Lani Bay hotel and other luxury hotels and restaurants.

Shook said he planned to appeal to both a local clientele that is used to the highest standards Los Angeles has to offer, and to draw outsiders who don’t usually come to the South Bay to dine.

This week a restaurant and dining industry consultant familiar with Brix called Shook’s experiment “brave,” and said a number of factors worked against its success.

Brix opened with a strikingly ambitious menu and business plan, including about one server per table, which “would only work with a really high volume” of patrons, said the consultant, who asked not to be identified by name.

In addition, the consultant said, Shook began “juggling concepts” for the restaurant, turning at one time to prix fixe dinners, with limited choices and fixed prices, and then moving on to an approach in which a chef learns the likes and dislikes of a patron and prepares a number of small portions tailored to the patron’s taste.

“In some ways they were ahead of the curve,” the consultant said, citing the timely move to prix fixe meals, but the restaurant continued to move from concept to concept.

The location also was problematic, the consultant said. As an internal part of the Pavilion, the restaurant was not especially noticeable from the highway outside, where motorists zoom by in heavy traffic that demands their attention. And Brix was accessed by the Pavilion’s parking garage, which was charging for parking when the eatery opened. ER


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