The City of Pismo Beach is investigating the recent demolition of an historic restaurant that was approved only for a remodel.
Historian Effie McDermott remembers the Alex Bar-B-Q as a place for families to enjoy a meal and friends to get together for a drink on weekends.
“It was the place to be,” McDermott said. “You’d go in and they had steaks in a refrigerated glass case like a supermarket and you’d actually choose the steak you wanted cooked for you.”
The restaurant, established by Alex Angelo in 1943, was believed to have been built in the 1920s.
Nearly 100 years from its debut, the structure was supposed to be revitalized but instead, it’s a pile of rubble.
“This was a tragic event and the demolition illegally of a building the community cared a great deal about,” Pismo Beach City Manager Jim Lewis said.
Some time Monday night, construction crews destroyed the icon after receiving the go ahead from the City to demolish a single tower component of the building that was deemed unsafe.
“Why did they believe they could take the building down?” Lewis asked. “The permit was clear, they were supposed to demolish 300 sq. ft. The permit was for a remodel. The project owner knew that. I don’t know where this fell apart between them and the contractor and that’s what we’re getting to the bottom of.”
The project owner, Compass Health, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
But according to the City, the contractor, Kain Building, sent city leaders a statement denying responsibility and claiming it received approval from the City to demolish the entire building.
Lewis discussed the issue Tuesday night with the City Council during a weekly meeting, where he said Compass Health is responsible for the error. He said he intends to seek the highest fine possible and recommend to the City Council revocation of permits obtained by Compass Health.
“The people who own it now have a track record of operating restaurants well, doing great renovations, neat things. So we were excited when they bought it because they have a great rep and ability to do something special.”
The building is not on the historic registry, nor does it carry an official designation, but for historians and residents alike, the loss is monumental.
“I just couldn’t believe it, how can that happen?” McDermott asked. “It sounds silly but, it does make you cry.”
All throughout the week, Shell Beach residents have stopped by to peer through the fence surrounding the now demolished structure.
One resident said the restaurant was special to everyone in town and will be sorely missed.
Though the City does not intend to use the remnants of the historic building in any kind of rebuild, Lewis said it won’t be cleared out any time soon.
“To clear it away is to remove the building from our memory,” Lewis said. “I think it needs to sit there and we can see the tragedy that it was.”