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Under New Ownership, Renee's Gets Some TLC

The downtown dive is now run by the owner of Mexican restaurant Tinga. Letter in local newspaper says because of the change, "Santa Monica is a little less Santa Monica."

Some of the creepy dolls might go, but Renee's Courtyard Cafe will keep its Renee's vibe, says its new manager.

The brick-clad, unique and divey downtown bar changed hands Monday. It's now under the ownership of chef Jerry Baker, the man behind Tinga, a small Mexican restaurant that began as a taco stand on La Brea Avenue near West 3rd Street.

"All we want to do is a cleaner version of Renee's," said General Manager JP Prendergast.

A letter to the editor published earlier this week in the Santa Monica Mirror said Renee's, established in 1981 and once family-owned, had closed and been purchased by a chain restaurant:

Today Santa Monica is a little less Santa Monica and a lot more Orange County. To those of you who never stumbled into Renee’s you have no idea what you have missed.

I never tired of watching tourist walk in and seeing if they instantly felt the charm of Renee’s like so many of us did or if they went running back to the corporate sterility of a Yardhouse, Hooters or Dave & Busters. On any given night you might have rubbed elbows with a famous actor, musician or athlete and not even known it.

That raised some flags.

Grub Street Los Angeles picked up on the letter and ran a piece lamenting the loss of Santa Monica haunts that offer "surfeit of personality" and "infectious" looks back at the past:

... outrage ensues in Santa Monica over the news that owners of Renee's Courtyard Cafe, the atmospheric little Hobbit-hole that still stands on Wilshire after 32 years, have left the building behind due to raised rents and an immoveable [sic] landlord.

Prendergast told Patch that Renee's—which is temporarily closed now for minor repairs and cleaning—would stay much the same. 

However, it might be safe to bet, as Eater LA has predicted, that Baker will introduce a menu of new libations and Mexican offerings. (Perhaps braised short ribs, homemade refried beans, or potato and chorizo quesedillas?) Baker could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Jenna Linnekens February 07, 2013 at 08:42 PM
I am so sad to hear about Renee's closing. My husband and I met there 14 years ago and were married years later and have two beautiful children. We love all our memories including and most importantly the people. Renee, Lea, Jess I could go on and on that these people always were welcoming and warm and a ton of fun! We are grateful to Renee for simply existing because we have a beautiful family now...all because of a random Tuesday night in 1999 in the courtyard. We will miss you and we are for sure going to get in the right away to take photo with our kiddos at the table where we met.
Jenna Chandler February 07, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Jenna, that's such a sweet story! Thank you for sharing
Dan Charney February 07, 2013 at 10:52 PM
So true William- and so sad- another incredible piece of Santa Monica goes the way its all going- to the Nerds with Money- we need "a little more Fight Club and a whole less "You've Got Mail"- Californication.
Mark Evans February 08, 2013 at 08:05 PM
As much as I'm going to miss Renee's I think I've found my new second home - O'Briens on Wilshire and 23rd. Locally owned and very nice people that make you feel at home. Please join me at O'Briens and support your local businesses
Griffith February 11, 2013 at 05:47 AM
O'Briens? You must be a pirate Mark. Say hello to Captain Willie

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