Turnover is afoot as Green Flash is sold, China Inn shutters
by DAVE SCHWAB
Apr 03, 2014 | 5093 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Green Flash is under new ownership after being a staple in the beach community for years. Meanwhile, longtime owners of the China Inn on Hornblend Street have closed their doors. Photo by Dave Schwab
The Green Flash is under new ownership after being a staple in the beach community for years. Meanwhile, longtime owners of the China Inn on Hornblend Street have closed their doors. Photo by Dave Schwab
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China Inn, which has operated on Hornblend Street since 1988, has officially closed its doors. 		    Photo by Dave Schwab
China Inn, which has operated on Hornblend Street since 1988, has officially closed its doors. Photo by Dave Schwab
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The Pacific Beach restaurant scene is a lively one, with the menu always changing.

One longtime staple, The Green Flash, at 701 Thomas Ave. on the boardwalk, recently changed ownership, and another, China Inn, at 877 Hornblend St., is history.

Named for the green-spot optical phenomenon occurring just before or after sunset, The Green Flash has reportedly been sold by longtime owners the Gemora family to Michael Bezarra, who also owns Cabo Cantina and PB Cantina.

Longtime China Inn owners Judy and Andy Kim closed shop after losing their lease on March 31.

The Kims said they will be going on a deserved vacation before returning and possibly relocating to an as-yet-to-be-determined spot.

“We’re going to take a rest; we’d like to reopen at some point,” said Judy Kim. “We have no plans right now.”

According to The Green Flash website, the restaurant as presently configured opened in 1965 as Armando’s Snack Bar.

“I remember it as a beach café, with beach rentals out front and a take-out window,” longtime PB resident Marcie Beckett said.

Reincarnated as The Green Flash in 1990, another popular eatery, World Famous, operated in that spot for some years before 1990. World Famous moved to its present location, 711 Pacific Beach Drive, displaced by Armando Gamora and The Green Flash.

China Inn as owned by the Kims opened in 1988. Previous tenants on the site, according to the Pacific Beach Historical Society newsletter, were Larry Waibel, who opened Waibel’s restaurant in 1954, and Copper Skillett, which took over in 1975.

“This is a favorite spot for longtime residents, and it will be greatly missed,” Beckett said, noting the restaurant serving mandarin cuisine is an institution, part of the community’s fabric.

“My extended family has been going there regularly for as long as it has been in operation,” she said. 

Beckett said some in PB fear the new owner will turn Green Flash into an oceanfront version of Cabo Cantina/PB Cantina. 

“The (Gemora) alcohol license was issued many years ago and likely has few if any conditions, which means it is very valuable, because it can be used to sell full spirits from 6 a.m. until 2 am. with very few restrictions,” Beckett said. The restaurant is presently open between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Tom Frost, a  fourth-generation Pacific Beach resident and owner of Pacific Beach Properties, which owns the Beach Cottages Motel, at 4255 Ocean Blvd. next door to Green Flash, cautioned people against jumping to conclusions about the new restaurant’s owners or their intentions.

Frost noted The Green Flash is well known for its somewhat “upscale seafood” cuisine and for catering to locals and tourists alike.

“When you have so few tables, no parking, and you’re successful — that means you’re doing something right,” Frost said of Green Flash’s success.

Noting the beach alcohol ban has been a real “game changer” for beach businesses and how they operate, Frost noted that “the change of (no) drinking on the beach was a good change, putting drinking in the bars, which is better than on the beach.”

He cautioned that “a delicate balance” needs to struck between “noisy” bars and “quiet” hotels in the touristy beachfront neighborhood.

“We’re trying to find that balance,” Frost said, noting a “higher level of activity” is needed on the boardwalk to keep it vibrant.

“Otherwise, people won’t come here,” he said, adding that “to some degree you need to maintain excitement at the beach.”

The Beach & Bay Press was unable to reach Bezarra or his firm for comment on their future plans for The Green Flash.
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