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A decades-old Signal Hill-Long Beach institution closing its doors

After 22 years of owning Delius Restaurant, local couple announce closure

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Cory Bilicko | Signal Tribune
Delius Restaurant in Signal Hill

If you had asked Dave Solzman, owner of Delius Restaurant, a little over a year ago if he could imagine a life without his esteemed establishment, he wouldn’t even consider the idea, let alone a future without the restaurant that has been a passion in his and his wife Louise’s life the past 22 years.

Unfortunately for the couple, the hypothetical is now a reality– Dave and Louise sent out an email blast Wednesday, June 6 to announce that, after over two decades of serving the community in the Signal Hill and Long Beach area, Delius Restaurant will close its doors this month.

“We’ve been dealing with this possibility for quite some time, and for it to become a reality, it’s kind of crushing, to be honest,” Dave told the Signal Tribune in a phone interview Wednesday morning, an hour after the email announcement. “And, you go back and forth between the minutia of having to take care of things to all of a sudden the realization setting in, and it’s hard. We’ve just sent out the email an hour ago, and we already received so many emails and responses. So far, all the ones we’ve received have been positive and very supportive, expressing their regret and sorrow that we are leaving. I’m trying to answer them all, but I can’t keep up. […] It’s very emotional for numerous reasons.”

In the email, co-signed by David and Louise, they wrote that there were many reasons that contributed to the decision to close the restaurant, but the most insurmountable one was the company’s payroll. The email states that rising minimum wage has become a critical issue, and that Delius as an establishment was unable to adapt to the changing standards of the food-service industry. The cost was too high.

June 30 is the pending closure date of Delius, but Dave said it is no guarantee and that the restaurant could close sooner. He said an email update will be sent out if the date changes. If the company reaches its final designated day of June 30, Dave said the restaurant will host an informal welcoming event to thank the community.
Delius Restaurant as a brand will also cease to exist, and Dave said the company will do a bulk-asset sale. Currently, he said, there is a potential buyer who is interested in the location.

“It hasn’t been signed on a bottom line yet,” Dave said. “When it is, we’ll announce it. And hopefully that will go through, and that will help us to have a small casualty and help with the closing up of the business.”

For years, Delius has been a go-to spot for Signal Hill residents to celebrate special occasions– birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and even proposals. Community members had already reached out to Dave Wednesday morning to let him know how much Delius has meant to them.

According to Dave, Delius Restaurant has existed for 41 years. As a couple working on a cruise ship, Dave and Louise moved to Southern California to buy the restaurant to pursue the former’s aspiration to own a bar. At the time, Delius was at its original location in Long Beach on Long Beach Boulevard.

“I started looking for a bar,” he said, “and then I started looking for a bar that sold food, and then I started looking for a restaurant that had a bar, and then I ended up with a restaurant with no bar– and that was Delius. We fell in love with it when we saw the concept and what it was and everything, and we knew this was perfect for a couple to run. A year and a half later, we actually got married.”

It was a gamble enough to make a career shift in a new area, but the couple also didn’t know anybody in Long Beach. However, the two were quickly embraced by the community when they began operating Delius, and the culture of the restaurant and the people in it soon became part of their social life. After some time, the site incorporated a wine bar and, thereafter, a full bar when it was relocated to Signal Hill, per Dave’s goals.

After many years of operation in Long Beach, the couple made the transition to Signal Hill in July 2007 in an effort to improve the concept and grow beyond the limitations of the previous location. As they made the move, the Great Recession was starting to sneak its way into the United States. As the times were becoming difficult to deal with, Dave made a desperate request to the City of Signal Hill to assist his business in any way it could.

The City responded quickly and said there was redevelopment money that might be available for the restaurant, Dave said. As documented in 2010 by the Signal Tribune, a complex series of agreements approved at a council meeting saved the restaurant during what was deemed to be the toughest time to own a business in the nation since the Great Depression.

“I think my wife and I are incredibly fortunate,” Dave said. “We could have never predicted it […] that we could have basically worked with each other day and night for decades and keep our marriage strong. It wasn’t without turmoil, it wasn’t without problems, of course, but I don’t think there’s a lot of people out there that can do that– and we certainly didn’t know that we could. It worked out. We feel very fortunate that way.”

After surviving the recession and getting help from the City, Dave and Louise wanted to make the push to keep growing and increase revenue. However, Dave soon started anticipating there might be some trouble looming for the restaurant during the second quarter of 2016.

“I knew these things that were happening that weren’t going in a positive direction for us,” he said. “[…] After the first quarter of 2016, which was excellent, business slumped. I started to try and figure out why and started to try and make adjustments and, for the next 12 months, we realized we had to do things to increase our payroll. […] We tried to compensate that with keeping our other costs in mind, such as food costs. As payroll began to grow with the minimum-wage raise, we were trying very hard to find ways to battle it. We had to change our menu so we could have less people to cook it. Those kinds of efforts is what we were trying to do, but we discovered there was a bottom that we couldn’t go below to run this sort of restaurant without significantly changing the concept.”

Beginning this year, Dave wanted to give one last push to try to make things happen financially for the restaurant, but he said a number of things got in the way that prevented him from performing the way he had intended.

“I think in April, I finally made the call and said, ‘I can’t continue,’” he said. “And that’s been a long, hard process.”

Two months later, Dave and Louise decided it was time to announce to Signal Hill and Long Beach residents their closure plans. Dave was vocal about the way this closure not only impacts the couple business-wise, but also socially. With such a dramatic lifestyle change, it’s natural to wonder what happens next.

“That’s a very good question, and a question I’ve asked myself many many times throughout this process,” Dave said. “To be honest with you, there was never a time before 12 months ago that I ever considered not having this restaurant in my life. I had no plans of selling, no plans of closing, no plans of doing anything. I always figured I would have Delius Restaurant as long as I lived. This has been a real change to my goals in life.”

Dave said the couple plans to continue a catering service that Louise sometimes focuses on. Table 301, a new restaurant slated to open sometime this year in downtown that Dave will also own, could be the next chapter for the two, but he did not wish to comment about the upcoming plans for that establishment.

Regardless, the thought only serves as a coping mechanism for the reality that is the closure of Delius Restaurant. Life goes on, but it will come with its challenges, Dave said.

“That’s what makes it so bittersweet, although the sweet part is only the fact that we’re trying so hard and going through such difficulties that will end,” Dave said. “But, having to adjust our lives based on our whole social structure is going to be impacted. We’ve made very good friends– it won’t just go away with the restaurant, of course– but it does change our interaction with the community greatly.”

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A decades-old Signal Hill-Long Beach institution closing its doors