Southern California says farewell to James’ Beach, iconic LGBTQ space

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James’ Beach restaurant has shuttered after 26 years. Photo courtesy of James’ Beach.

James’ Beach, a Venice restaurant known as much for the queer community it fostered, shut down last month after 26 years.

The closure comes as the pandemic forced bars and restaurants across Southern California to shutter, or crowdfund to stay afloat. But Eater LA writer Mona Holmes says James’ Beach wasn’t a pandemic casualty. The restaurant’s owners, couple James Evans and Daniel Samakow, were just ready to move on.

“The owners were realizing that a restaurant like James’ Beach – with their price point, with their menu – wasn't really going to be enough to sustain them for much more,” Holmes says. “Venice is a very different type of city than it was in the ‘90s.”

Holmes says she’ll remember the space for its white interior, leather booths, and swim-trunk light fixtures. But she’ll also remember the role the space played as a queer safehaven in Los Angeles.

When James’ Beach opened, “the Westside was largely quiet as far as queer spaces go,” Holmes says. “They just loved Venice. They felt very much a part of it. They were not only working there, and living there, and thriving there. There was just something about them feeling like, ‘If we're going to love this place, we're going to contribute to it as much as possible.’”