January 18, 2018

The Venice Whale of a Tale

Since opening in 1944, The Venice Whaler has been a community anchor in Venice Beach, providing food and drinks to locals and tourists and even the likes of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and The Doors. When ownership changed back in 2014, restaurateur Mike Dobson called FE Design to help update the historic property.


The Whaler’s long history in Venice gave it certain advantages and disadvantages which FE researched extensively and took into consideration while working on the project. What started as an effort to legalize a portion of the outdoor patio to serve alcohol morphed into a more complicated issue.


Due to its age, The Whaler was entitled to certain grandfathered rights that protected it from new regulations. Among these, the property held exceptions to alcohol licensing and required parking as it predated regulations in these two areas. However, these grandfathered rights did not extend to additions to the permitted square footage, such as the patio and take-out window awaiting approval.


The main issue was that the patio had existed and operated under the previous owner, but it was never fully permitted. The new owner, Mike, sought to legally permit the entire patio with alcohol licensing, as well as the take-out window. As this technically fell under new space for the property, the outside space was subject to modern parking regulations. Since The Whaler is located in a busy coastal zone, the bar is also subject to intensified parking requirements, meaning that just adding a patio and take-out window resulted in the demand for 28 new parking spots.


These parking requirements were impossible to fulfill given the already crowded quarters of Venice Beach. Instead, FE worked tirelessly to find viable parking alternatives — from a public valet to renting out a local school’s parking lot to offering discounts to customers utilizing public transportation and ridesharing. This transportation and management parking plan resulted in The Whaler’s fully-permitted and alcohol-serving patio, which 50% of customers request to be seated at.


One of the key components of The Whaler’s success over the years was its widespread community support, so to keep noise down for the locals we permitted state-of-the-art sound dampening awnings. Our last contribution to The Whaler was securing health and building permits so the historic establishment could continue serving its loyal fans. The Whaler is still catering to its beachside community, just as it has for the past 70 years — but now, the bar and grill can legally serve its patrons in its outside spaces (which boast a view of the Pacific).


Photo courtesy of NaokoEats.