While the pipsqueaks at the Squeaky Bean have spent the last few weeks monkeying around -- pilfering pigs, for example -- this past year hasn't exactly been a playful wallow in the mud for owners Johnny Ballen and Josh Olsen, executive chef Max MacKissock, bar manager Sean Kenyon and the rest of the Bean staffers.
Since day one, MacKissock has been sequestered in a kitchen the size of a shot of whiskey, cooking his ass off without the benefit of the bare basics -- a hood, for instance. And considering the extraordinary caliber of food that MacKissock turns out, using little more than a few induction burners and convection ovens, that's a miracle unduplicated, especially in this new world of flashy kitchens outfitted with the latest and greatest equipment.
And MacKissock was under the assumption that soon, he, too, would get a state-of-the-art cooking laboratory (or at least one with a hood) where he -- and his dishes -- could continue to evolve. That was the plan, anyway, since he, Ballen and Olsen had been negotiating for months with the owners of Rosa Linda's, their next door neighbor and landlord, to expand the kitchen and dining room, and extend their lease agreement. But the owners -- the Aguirre family -- balked.
"These negotiations have come to an unfortunate close, as our landlords have declined our lease extension, ultimately forcing us to abandon our current culinary program within the Rosa Linda's building," says general manager Stephen Gallic. "In exchange for an extended lease at a fixed per/square foot rate, The Squeaky Bean intended to invest approximately $300,000 in improvements to their space, but their unwillingness to sign the lease has made this intended investment both impractical and non-reciprocal," he adds.
And because of that, the Squeaky Bean's growth has been stunted, and on Sunday, June 12, after brunch service, the Bean as we know it, will shutter. That's the bad news. But the rest of it is all good.
After a series of aesthetic changes -- a new color scheme, the addition of booths, and an expanded bar -- The Bean will reopen around July 8 as the Occidental, a loungey watering hole that will emphasize Kenyon's clever cocktail program. "We're still going to be goofy and fun, like the Bean, but we're changing the concept pretty drastically, so that it focuses almost entirely on Sean and his cocktails," says MacKissock, whose menu will change, too. "We'll be doing lots of charcuterie, oysters, housemade terrines and pâtés, some vegetarian offerings from our garden and the farm, and a lot of different caviars matched with vodkas," he explains, adding that the new menu "will be easier to execute in the current space and kitchen restraints."
In addition, the new bar, which will serve grub until midnight and pour booze until 2 a.m., will offer a daily happy hour, from 4 to 7 p.m., that will trumpet, says MacKissock, "really awesome cocktails, including some crazy punches, as well as a couple of fun food specials." The goal, adds MacKissock, "is to be a really cool cocktail bar with really cool snacks."
As for Squeaky Bean -- the restaurant -- MacKissock and Ballen are currently hunting for another address to resurrect it. "We would have loved nothing more than to stay in this space and remain the Squeaky Bean, but that's not going to happen, so we're looking very hard for a new space, bumping around town, and searching high and low for something new," he says. "We're super motivated, and want to get this done as quickly as possible, but we also want to make sure we choose the right space."
In the meantime, notes MacKissock, "we have an incredible staff who we want to keep together, and when Occidental opens, it's going to be amazing and a great opportunity for Sean, even if we are taking away the Farrah Fawcett photos."
MacKissock promises, however, that Farrah will reemerge in the new location. "When we reopen, it's definitely going to be the Squeaky Bean -- Farrah and all."
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