Tom Doherty bought it in 1993 with $150,000 charged to credit cards by him and his brother and turned it into an institution in West Hollywood’s Boystown. Now, 26 years later, Café d’Etoile has closed.
Doherty announced the Sunday closing in a post on Facebook late last night. “With a very heavy heart, we are sorry to announce that after 36 years we are closing our doors. With rising costs from food, drinks, and labor, it is no longer financially viable to remain open.
“We want to thank all of our customers throughout the years that have stood by us through thick and thin. We could not have done it without you. We also can’t leave out our amazing staff that put in so much to keep it going and to make the Café such an iconic place to visit in West Hollywood. We wish them the best and know that they will do well wherever they go.
We hope that whatever replaces Café D’Etoile in the future can not only live up to our customers’ expectations but can exceed them!”
The closing of Café d’Etoile, which is located at 8941 Santa Monica Blvd. between Hilldale and North Robertson, is the second of a major institution that is part of the gay nightlife and entertainment district known as Boystown. Last month, LASC, the gay-oriented apparel store at 8592 Santa Monica Blvd. operated by Don Zuidema and his partners Mike McGinley and Alfredo Izaguirre, closed its doors after being in business at various Westside locations since 1983. Zuidema cited the impact on LASC of online retailing and increases in commercial rents and operating overhead. “West Hollywood continues to morph into a center for a new wave of urban living and 21st Century businesses,” he said.
By early this morning, the announcement on Facebook of Café d’Etoile’s had attracted more than 50 comments from customers saddened by the news.
“No no no! I was just there on Sunday. Where oh where will I get the best calamari ever? When I first saw this my first thought was oh it’s April Fools’ Day, but then I realize we are in September. This is sad, sad devastating news. Thank you, thank you, thank you for many years of fabulous food and fabulous cocktails,” was one. Another commenter wrote: “What sad news. Your place was the one spot in WeHo that could be counted on to not only be consistent with great food and drink, but for the atmosphere of welcome and warmth where friends would joyfully meet. You will be missed. Thank you for so many years of great memories.”
Café D’Étoile was already an established restaurant when Doherty got a tip from a friend that the place may come up for sale. “It was an absolute sh—t hole,” Doherty said in an interview published in WEHOville in 2017. “It was just dirty and gross. [But] it did have clientele.”
“In the 1950s it was a bar with a pool table – The Barrel,” Doherty said. “Late ‘60s it became L’Etoile, a sort of very high-end French restaurant.” And in 1983 it was renamed Café D’Étoile.
Café D’Étoile now has 24 employees, quite a few of whom have been with Doherty for over 20 years. “When [people] find something decent, they want to stay,” Doherty said, explaining the long tenure. “In addition, I’m not a trigger happy guy.”
In the 2017 interview, Doherty described the evolution of Café d’Etoile’s clientele, which initially was mostly gay men. “In the early days it was probably 98%,” he said. “Now, probably 75% gay-ish.” Doherty said the city is changing. “Lots of people are buying in WeHo, and they’re paying big dollars. They’re straight. They’re gonna come down to local places as well.”
Celebrities have been spotted at Café d’Étoile. During his 2017 interview, Doherty pointed to Rachel Lindsay of “The Bachelorette,” who was sitting nearby. Doherty said she comes in for lunch now and again. She sat with Cary Fetman, her award-winning dress designer.
THANK YOU TOM for some GREAT memories and calamari over the years, hugs to you and much luck on your next chapter!
I loved this place! The food and the service. You never had to ask for a refill on ice tea- it was automatically done!! I love the staff, the food, the owner. Many many good memories here!!!
has always been a bit of a dump. but good luck to them. WEHO is changing….and it’s for the good.
Not really the point, but why are there no affordable fast food restaurants in weho. I don’t eat out, but who hasn’t at least once in a while had a fast food meal. Not to replace Cafe D’Etoile, but what about most locals and visitors who couldn’t afford D’Etoile. Also having an inexpensive fast food option, (again not instead or in the location of D’Etoile) people leaving drunk for ALL THE MANY BARS could go have some greasy and carb-heavy post barn meal/snack to reduce their level of intoxication (from delay to the food digesting TO LOWER ALCOHOL BLOOD LEVELS… Read more »
I consider Halal Guys, Guisados, Greenwich Pizza and that hamburger place next to the Palm car wash to be reasonably affordable options to wash up the alcohol, or have a cheap lunch. There are other late night hamburger places (at least half a dozen). Subway is also open during the day. And that salad place, near Gym Bar.
fast food restaurants for the alcoholics?????? fast food can’t afford the rents here.
I don’t think that’s the issue. I haven’t been up on Sunset, But the McDonald’s at Crescent Hgts was the closest they could get to weho, but that is in the City of LA. Not a fan of McDonald’s, but that one on Sunset and Crescent Hgts has the Strangest/coolest/wietd/no words for that drive thru that drove into the actual strip mall super structure. It was like a tunnel, the like NY Port Authority Parking, the the pick up window…. I used to recommend it to tourists. Worth buying a small French fries just to go through that drive through.… Read more »
Gay has been in the way of those who wish to get the maximum profit and rents in our dying few block of Boys Town. It”s sad to see our city leaders on council, 3 who are gay, just to continue to allow our gay friendly business and iconic venues sold away to the highest bidder/ The French Market Place, Studio One, and on and on the list goes. The city that was once a beacon of hope for gay individuals, has been sold away to the real estate developers who keep our city council members in power, with as… Read more »
I agree that this is sad, but I would seriously like to know what you think they could have done to prevent this, from a legal perspective. How could they have prevented this business from closing? LASC? And these two businesses weren’t sold to a higher bidder, I don’t believe. I believe it is greedy landlords who are raising their rent when their lease is up.
what’s the back story? sincerely curious.
This type of restaurant and sidewalk dining are the norm throughout Europe supported by locals and tourists alike. Exactly what is killing the idea here? Dining, or should I say eating on bare tabletops wiped down by what I wouldn’t want to imagine and paying hefty prices for no real service is grim. If places with the ambiance of Joan’s on Third can thrive and be copied, or full service restaurants with or without tablecloths or butcher paper, why not in WH? Too many settle for too little.
I was just there Sunday for Brunch. This is like hearing of someone that you know has passed. This is a sad sad day for the clientele of this establishment. I too have had a number of life’s occasions celebrated here; birthdays, anniversaries, you name it. Thanks Tom to you and your staff for 20+ years of fond memories at your restaurant.
Great quote: “West Hollywood continues to morph into a center for a new wave of urban living and 21st Century businesses.”
Most of which are expensive, mediocre at best and boring to anyone that does not need to wax their eyebrows or drink too much coffee. Maybe they can put in a Kitty Muffin place next to Kockdog. Anyone actually tried a pizza at Rocco’s?
No!not l’etoile! The best prime rib dinner in WeHo…now it’s only a mere store front for boys shorts…pity
I’m stunned. I go two dozen times a year — the best eggs benedict in Southern California, for decades. TOM !! don’t retire, you’ll be bored to death.
I eat there regularly and have sadly noticed changes over the past few months where vendor reps and city reps have been in to collect on accounts that weren’t being paid. The economics just weren’t working. It could have been saved and reimagined with some capital reinvested and an updated menu but labor costs are rising and the new Bottega Louie opening right across the street soon would put significant pressure that they would be pressed hard to compete with. Sadly I will miss many of the staff that I have become friendly with over the years. I need a… Read more »
I will miss this restaurant and Tom and the rest of the staff greatly. I’ve been dining here for decades and it’s always been a delight to eat here. Sadly, this is just another case of West Hollywood changing with the times. Apparently, Reality TV stars are the new thing.