Is Pannikin packing it in? Decades-old La Jolla cafe faces April exit after lease talks falter

Pannikin La Jolla has been given 30 days' notice of lease termination.
Pannikin La Jolla has been given 30 days’ notice of lease termination. Its last day at 7467 Girard Ave. is scheduled for Saturday, April 9.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

After decades on Girard Avenue, Pannikin La Jolla is preparing to pack up its coffee beans and tea leaves and empty the building.

Amanda Morrow, who bought the cafe in 2007 after working there for years, said she received 30 days’ notice of lease termination late last week and that Pannikin’s last day at 7467 Girard Ave. is Saturday, April 9.

“It’s heartbreaking to leave,” Morrow said. “It’s something that none of us really imagined would happen.”

Morrow, who operates Pannikin with Gloria Serna and Dan Grunow, said the letter was the end of an effort that began in December to renegotiate the lease with the property owner.

“We couldn’t agree on terms,” Morrow said.

Morrow declined to identify the landlord, but the La Jolla Light learned from the San Diego County assessor’s office that the building is owned by the Clem Abrams Trust. Abrams was a La Jolla developer who died in December 2018. His wife, Lydia “Dia” Abrams, went missing in June 2020 from her 117-acre ranch near Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County and has not been found.

Morrow declined to outline the new lease terms, and she and the landlord are still working out which furnishings will stay with the building when Pannikin closes.

“One detail I can tell you is that we want to be here,” she said. “We wanted a new lease; we do not want to leave.”

“If it can be resolved, I’m ready to resolve it,” Morrow said. But she added she is not hopeful.

Pannikin La Jolla, pictured in July, has been at its Girard Avenue location since 1971.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Bob Sinclair opened the original Pannikin Coffee & Tea in 1968 in one of the Green Dragon Colony cottages.

Pannikin moved to the Girard Avenue location in 1971. Sinclair also opened other Pannikin locations that either have closed or have different owners now.

La Jollan Christopher Canole has been patronizing Pannikin La Jolla since it opened on Girard and said the news of its impending closure is sad. “It’s not a coffeehouse, it’s an experience,” he said. “It’s not just a business.”

He said the cafe has been a conduit to transforming relationships. “Family is the operative word,” he said. “I don’t think customer is the proper word.”

James Rudolph, a native La Jollan and president of the La Jolla Town Council, said “Pannikin has been a big part of the La Jolla community for more than 50 years. It’s more than a coffee shop. It’s more than a bakery. It’s a meeting place.”

“Countless conversations have taken place within its eccentric and eclectic walls,” he added. “Pannikin is the community, and the significance of its closing can’t be overstated.”

Noting that many long-standing La Jolla businesses have shuttered, Rudolph — whose father founded La Jolla’s Harry’s Coffee Shop in 1960 — said he is “doing what I can to raise awareness.”

“If we care about our community’s commercial environment, we should at the very least be able to rally support for this beloved business,” Rudolph said. “If nothing in the end can be done to save it, so be it. But at least we will have tried.”

Morrow said she is grateful for “such an amazing community.”

“Even though this is a terrible time … the way that people care is coming through in such a wonderful, beautiful way that I just feel I’m so blessed … to be in this kind of community,” she said.

Morrow said she is considering reopening Pannikin in another location but has no specifics yet. “I can’t imagine this not existing,” she said. ◆