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Shuttered Willie Jane Gets New Life Along Abbot Kinney, But Not Forever

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The Venice Place Project still surrounds the property

Venice Place and Willie Jane
Google Maps
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

There’s new movement along Abbot Kinney this week, as some city paperwork has just gone up in the window of the former Willie Jane space. It points to new ownership under the business name West Indies Trading Co., Inc. — but where that leads is very, very complicated.

The West Indies name was for years a company title for the group behind The Venice Place Project, which is a long-gestating hotel and retail plan with a rather fraught history. A handful of Venice locals have have been fighting against the developers behind the project since at least 2013, arguing that its footprint and scope won’t match the neighborhood. Even then the changing demographics of Abbot Kinney were apparent to many, and in the intervening years places like Abbot’s Habit, AXE, the decade-old 3 Square Cafe, and famed LGBTQ bar Roosterfish have all shuttered away.

But things have been moving along, if slowly. Evan Funke’s Felix Trattoria is now open at the end of the block, and they fully enclosed what was once a back patio during their build-out because Venice Place’s hotel is opening a few of their proposed 84 rooms right out back.

A proposal for The Venice Place Project
Wynkoop Properties

As The Venice Place Project notes on their own website, the property will basically be “a collection of buildings connected by passageways,” offering indoor-outdoor vibes for anyone who comes through. Part of this new campus will be the Willie Jane space, acting as a new restaurant for the hotel. Eater reached out for word on what the property will look like, timelines, and anything else..

Update: Reps for The Venice Place Project say that the Willie Jane space won’t quite be the restaurant of record for the hotel, but is part of the larger collection of buildings currently installed on property, just like Felix. Eventually, the Willie Jane building will be torn down and rebuilt, but that’s years away.

The development team has already brought back a couple of familiar names by reinstating Hal’s Bar & Grill (which closed a ways back down the street) into a new space on Venice Place property. They did the same with Casa Linda, a local favorite Mexican restaurant that was forced to move from its previous address in 2015. Add in the Joe’s-to-Felix flip, and it seems there’s already plenty to eat along the Venice Place frontage.

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