The Beginning: 1923
The original The Lobster opened in 1923, yet it was the dream of a dishwasher named Mateo Castillo who worked his way up to owner in 1950, that established The Lobster as the “seafood shack” so popular with LA residents and tourists alike through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
The modest, four-wall structure, which now serves as the entry for the current restaurant, only belied the attraction of location and fresh seafood. Their success was based on outstanding service and great food - a guiding principle that holds true today.
Rose Freeman, wife of Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman, purchased the property in the early 80’s. Having opened in 1923, The Lobster had become an unofficial historical landmark, nearly as recognizable as the Santa Monica Pier sign. The 860 square-foot seafood market-style restaurant was very popular with the local Santa Monica residents and Pier visitors. The restaurant had a menu with over 60 fresh seafood items. The seating capacity was only 30 seats, most of which were countertop seating around the outside perimeter. It remained open from 1923 until closing its doors in 1985.
In 1989, Dr. Nathan purchased The Lobster site. At this time there were 3 ½ million people walking on the pier bridge each year. This appeared to be an ideal location for his vision of two levels of underground parking, retail and office space and a 5,000 square-foot restaurant. This was not the best of times for the country and at the time, this dream did not make economic sense. The Lobster remained empty for a number of years with only the homeless finding refuge within its four walls.
For a number of years Warren Roberts, a local restauranteur, approached Dr. Nathan to develop the site and build a restaurant which he declined to do.
Dr. Nathan and Mr. Roberts finally came to an agreement to develop the property and revitalize the iconic landmark in the spirit of its original business. At that point other investors came aboard, including Terry Brady and Claudine Blackwell, Marshall Bernes, Rick Moos, Corey and Danusia Larsen, Bob Kull and his parents, Ari Nathan, Natasha Nathan, Randal Moos and Ryan Moos. Today, the LLC Members total 12 with varying economic interests.
After assembling the investors and with plans in hand, the City of Santa Monica approved the renovation of The Lobster site. However in the summer of 1998, just two months after the City had approved and released their two-year hold on The Lobster’s plans for renovation, and after a million dollars had been spent on the construction of the foundation, some of the then City Council members proposed to acquire the property by eminent domain. Fortunately with the help of many local supporters of the project, the Council voted not to proceed with the eminent domain resolution.
1999 - Present
On July 20, 1999, The Lobster reopened with traditional American seafood dining. The new renovation, designed by local architect Howard Laks, was developed to take advantage of the breathtaking views, while accommodating more guests than the previous structure. Guests can sit at any seat in the restaurant or bar area and enjoy 180 degree views of spectacular Santa Monica and its surrounding coastline as well as ocean views and a bird’s eye view of the iconic Santa Monica Pier. The outdoor S-Bar terrace provides fresh coastal air for those who love to dine outdoors. At night, The Lobster enjoys a vibrant bar experience with the Santa Monica Pier’s carousel and Ferris wheel aglow at its feet.
The Lobster stands as a tribute to the family that built its reputation. The remaining original structure serves as the wall of the main entrance at the corner of Ocean Ave. and the Pier. As a reminder of its legacy, and family tradition “Established in 1923” greets guests from the entry’s steps.
The menu is classic American seafood featuring whole live Maine and Spiny lobsters and entrees based on seasonal, locally grown produce and locally caught seafood whenever possible.
After many years of successful business, The Lobster has become a Santa Monica institution, serving as a cornerstone and internationally recognized landmark adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier.