The longtime operator of the recently shuttered Formosa Café hasn’t even turned in his keys yet, and the building’s owner is already hearing proposals from new tenants. Vince Jung, whose grandfather Lem Quon started running the place in the 1930s, abruptly closed the restaurant this week. New York-based real estate firm Clarion Partners purchased the West Hollywood Gateway shopping center in 2004 and owns the restaurant property. “My goal is to find someone that wants to bring back the history,” said Gabe Kadosh, vice president of leasing firm Colliers International. “This is not going to turn into a Sharky’s or something.”
Jung had been on a month-to-month, below-market lease for many years and made several unsuccessful attempts to revive the business by taking on partners and hosting pop-up nights. One of those partners remodeled the interior without permission from Clarion. The Formosa building, detached from the shopping center, was “harder to supervise,” according to Kadosh. “It was like an island.”
Now that the owners have control of the landmark they are seeking a new tenant to restore the Formosa. One who can bring “quality food, quality drinks, and a quality experience,” said Kadosh. “We want someone with a pride of ownership. There’s got to be a passion.”
Kadosh has assembled a group of candidates who have rehabilitated historic buildings and crafted elaborate theme bars, including the Houston Brothers of La Descarga and No Vacancy, Jared Meisler and Sean MacPherson of the Pikey and Jones Hollywood, and Bobby Green, Dimitri Komarov and Dima Liberman of the 1933 Group, who recently restored the Highland Park Bowl and the Idle Hour.
“Those are the kind of caliber of people I’m talking to,” said Kadosh. “They have a history and a nostalgic feel, and they can bring it back. I think these days people want an experience.”