La Valencia bids La Jolla’s iconic Whaling Bar adieu Feb. 14


Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb. 14, will be the last call for libations and nostalgia at La Valencia’s Whaling Bar.

The cocktail lounge where everyone from actor Gregory Peck to novelist Raymond Chandler and author Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) once held court, is closing for extensive renovations that include removal of a wall dividing the bar and adjacent Café La Rue.

The space, located inside the La Valencia Hotel at 1132 Prospect St., will re-open as an expanded Café La Rue, to include a central, U-shaped bar and a lighter, more open design.

Valentine’s Day dining will be available via reservation in Café La Rue, while the Whaling Bar side will be left open for guests to mingle and enjoy their last night at the bar until its reopening.

People may also opt to dine in a booth on the Whaling Bar side, though the space will be used for open seating, with no reservations required.

The Whaling Bar will close at 11 p.m. its final evening. The remodeled Cafe La Rue is expected to open just prior to Memorial Day in May.

Renovated and remodeled several times in the past 60 years, the space will again be re-crafted while maintaining the original artwork of Wing Howard as both theme and inspiration.

La Valencia chose West America Corporation and VP of Operations Mike Schmidt as general contractor on the project. The team worked together on renovations for the US Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego.

The new Café La Rue will include a larger bar, a signature wine vault and will maximize the architecture of the circa 1926 building by incorporating features of the hotel’s palm-shaded patio as part of the dining experience.

Hotel Managing Director Dibella partnered with the younger son of artist Wing Howard, Harrison Howard, to determine the most appropriate placement of the current Café La Rue artwork — all of which were duplicated a second time by Howard in the late 1970s, as the originals were beginning to deteriorate.

The artworks depict lively French village and country scenes, and were inspired by Howard’s early travels to Europe with his family.

Howard’s Whaling painting, which currently hangs above the central bar, along with model ships and scrimshaw (most sourced by Howard himself), will be removed and stored until their future installation in a new boardroom at La Valencia.

Café La Rue will be French art deco in style to reflect both the era depicted by the art as well as that of the hotel’s opening. Executive Chef Paul McCabe will craft menus for Café La Rue that embrace local seasonality with the flavors of European bistro-style dining.

Reservations can be made for Valentine’s dinner at Cafe La Rue. The cost of the “Yours and Mine” couples dinner is $69 per person. To make a reservation, phone (858) 551-3765.

—Staff Reports