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Pannikin lease termination brings dissent from landlord’s family as other La Jollans try to help the cafe

Pannikin La Jolla is preparing to vacate its location at 7467 Girard Ave. after being served a lease termination notice.
Pannikin La Jolla is preparing to vacate its location at 7467 Girard Ave. after being served a 30-day lease termination notice.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

As Pannikin prepares to brew its last latte at its decades-old Girard Avenue location in La Jolla, family members of the landlord are lending their voices to the growing community alarm over the possibility of losing the popular cafe.

“It’s an outrage. … I want the Pannikin to stay. It is an absolutely critical part of La Jolla. It is iconic,” said Clinton Abrams, who is listed with his only sibling, Crisara Abrams, as administrators of the Clem Abrams Trust, which owns the site.

Clem Abrams was a La Jolla developer who died in December 2018. His wife, Lydia “Dia” Abrams, went missing in June 2020 from her ranch near Idyllwild in Riverside County and has not been found.

Late last week, Pannikin — owned by Amanda Morrow, Gloria Serna and Dan Grunow — was handed a 30-day notice of lease termination. Its last day at 7467 Girard Ave. is Saturday, April 9.

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

Clinton Abrams, who lives in La Jolla and works as a developer, told the La Jolla Light that Crisara Abrams is currently making decisions regarding the property and that “my sister and I are currently not in direct communication. We haven’t spoken directly in many months.”

“I sincerely don’t know why Crisara is allowing … Pannikin to leave,” Clinton said.

Neither Crisara, who lives in North Park, nor her attorney, Janet Gertz, responded to the Light’s requests for comment.

Pannikin and the landlord were unable to agree on new lease terms during lengthy negotiations, said Morrow, who called the situation “heartbreaking.”

“We do not want to leave,” she said.

The building also is owned by Dessau Clarkson, brother of Clem Abrams’ partner and longtime La Jollan Stephen Clarkson, who died in 1999.

Dessau Clarkson said he is a silent partner under a verbal agreement with Clem that the Abramses would manage the building. He said he has no control over leasing the building.

“My advice is to keep the Pannikin,” Dessau said. “I would be sad to see it go.”

The Clem Abrams Trust owns several buildings around La Jolla, including the apartments behind the cafe.

According to Clinton, Clem’s father, Harold Abrams, was the architect for several properties, including many in La Jolla, Rancho Santa Fe and Clairemont.

“We have a long history in La Jolla,” Clinton said.

He said Morrow has never missed or been late with rent payment and has done repairs in the Pannikin building without charging the landlord.

“They’re just amazing tenants,” Clinton said. “Truly the best.”

Pannikin originally was opened by Bob Sinclair in 1968 and has been in the Girard Avenue location since 1971.

“Clem loved the Pannikin,” said Clinton, who added that Clem put on Pannikin’s roof with his own hands and did other work on the property. “Clem was a local La Jollan to his core; he was born here, grew up here and built much of La Jolla himself. He was a champion of local businesses and would never want the Pannikin to leave under any circumstance.”

Clem’s sister, Mary Abrams-Ridge, said she told Crisara that Clem would not have terminated Pannikin’s lease. “He was very community-minded and loved his birthplace,” Abrams-Ridge told the Light.

She said she doesn’t know Crisara’s reasoning regarding Pannikin and doesn’t know “the financial part.”

James Rudolph, a La Jolla native and president of the La Jolla Town Council, has set up a GoFundMe account (bit.ly/PannikinDonations) for donations to Pannikin “to assist in the search for a new location.” As of March 18, $7,540 has been raised.

Morrow declined to comment about the fundraising effort or any search for a new location. ◆