Hotel La Jolla is remaking ocean-view penthouse dining spot — for the sixth time
A planned $8 million renovation of the 11-story hotel will include a reimagined restaurant called Sea & Sky that will replace the soon-to-close Cusp.
A year after celebrating its 50th anniversary, the 110-room Hotel La Jolla will undergo an $8 million renovation that will include the latest reincarnation of its ocean-view penthouse dining space known decades ago as one of the best jazz venues in San Diego.
With a history of providing memories and music, Hotel La Jolla is ringing in its golden anniversary this year.
The planned overhaul of the 11th-floor space, now occupied by Cusp Dining & Drinks, will require its months-long closure to redesign the dining and bar venue, build a new kitchen and reopen as what will be known as Sea & Sky.
The new fine-dining restaurant marks the sixth iteration of the glass-enclosed space that originated with the once-well-known Elario’s — a restaurant and widely popular spot for top-notch jazz performances. Several other concepts followed after Elario’s faded in the early 1990s, including the Crescent Shores Grill, Clay’s and The Grill at Hotel La Jolla.
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Cusp, which debuted more than a decade ago, has made a gradual comeback since shutting down during the COVID-19 pandemic and then reopening in 2021 with a much-reduced schedule — Thursdays through Sundays. It returned to being open daily last September.
In preparation for the upcoming remodel and rebranding, Cusp is expected to close after Labor Day, Sept. 4, with Sea & Sky anticipated to open in early December, according to General Manager Adam Lund.
“When the new owners arrived, the business was still recovering from COVID and finding its way,” Lund said. “So we pretty much took a closed food and beverage operation and got it back to where it needed to be, which was seven days a week of breakfast, lunch and dinner. People have such a history with the place that they were still coming in to check to see if it was open. We really have felt a resurgence of locals coming back, and they appreciate what the team is doing.”
Hotel La Jolla, operated at La Jolla Shores Drive and Torrey Pines Road as part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, has not been renovated since 2012, Lund said. The hotel, which has changed hands a number of times, was acquired two years ago by Kawa Capital Management and CL Hotels, which said at the time of the $43 million purchase that an upgrade of the property’s lobby, pool, restaurants and guest rooms was planned.
“There will be ocean blues and light wood accents that pay homage to our beach location,” Lund said.
The first phase of the upgrade is a makeover of all the guest rooms and the new restaurant. Upgrades to the pool and the hotel’s public spaces will come in a later phase, Lund said.
“It’s a complete renovation of guest rooms, with new carpet, vinyl, new beds, furnishings, televisions,” he said. “We’re getting new fixtures and granite countertops.”
Sure to grab the most attention, though, both from guests and locals, is the 11th-floor venue, given its commanding views of La Jolla and the shoreline.
In addition to lightening up and modernizing the decor, the renovation calls for enclosing an existing show kitchen in the dining room with glass. The reason for that, Lund said, is to allow the restaurant to open its multiple sliding-glass windows. The hotel is not allowed to open them until the restaurant kitchen is protected by the glass enclosure, he said.
“We will now get that beautiful ocean breeze,” he added.
Because of its location near the ocean, Sea & Sky will have a focus on coastal cuisine, Lund said. And live music will remain part of the programming for Cusp’s replacement. Cusp currently features “sunset sessions” from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, and Lund said he hopes to continue that, as well as possibly initiate jazz brunches on weekends.
Business-wise, the hotel has had a successful summer, Lund said, with occupancy rates around 90 percent.
But he said he sees “a tremendous amount of upside with the renovation. And it makes sense to start a new chapter and new concept and start making new memories.” ◆