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New crafthouse set to open in historic White House location by end of year


Work on a new crafthouse restaurant in a historic downtown location is in full swing and is expected to open by the end of the year, officials reported this week.

Finney’s Crafthouse is the new tenant coming soon at 300-340 South Coast Highway (formerly the White House Restaurant).

Construction is progressing nicely, said Brad Finefrock, who heads up development for Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen, in an email this week to Stu News Laguna.

“We are expecting to finish construction in early November, however we are still waiting for Edison for a date to energize the building,” Finefrock said. “As soon as the building is energized we will be ready to open.”

Longtime property owner Jules Marine also shared the same timeline for the project. 

“The remodel is going nicely,” he said. “So far, the slab has been laid and roofing is mostly complete, along with partition walls.”

New crafthouse White House construction

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Work is in full swing at the 300-340 South Coast Highway location

Finefrock is enthusiastic about the new venture in Laguna Beach.

“We are looking forward to the next chapter of Finney’s at The White House,” Finefrock said. “The design and restoration of the building is going to be very special for past generations and new ones to enjoy. We are most excited to introduce our concept to the locals of Laguna Beach. We think they will really like what Finney’s has to offer.”

Finney’s Crafthouse has locations in Westlake Village, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Burbank, and Porter Ranch. In addition to the upcoming Laguna Beach location, Finney’s also has restaurants coming soon in Camarillo and Orange.

Although these restaurants share the same name, city staff previously explained that each restaurant has a unique presentation and does not take a formulaic or mass market approach; therefore, the it is not classified as formula-based business (as described in the Downtown Specific Plan).

The entire property has a 6,600-square-foot, four-unit commercial building that was constructed in 1915. Current tenants include Crazy Shirts, Carats Jewelry Store, and an upstairs office. The restaurant space is 4,789 square feet.

New crafthouse White House rendering

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Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach/Morris Skenderian and Associates

 A rendering of Finney’s Crafthouse restaurant coming soon to the historic White House location

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project at their Sept. 15 meeting with enthusiastic support. 

The conditional use permit was for the service of alcohol, increased seating, outdoor seating, and a 34 percent historic parking reduction at the location. The item also included approval of a coastal development permit. 

Commissioners were very supportive of the new restaurant (which will very likely still maintain “White House” somehow in its name) and renovation of the building. It’s a tired building and it’s exciting to see it get restored and become vibrant again, the commissioners agreed. 

“I applaud the effort and we’re all looking forward to seeing that happen,” Chair Jorg Dubin said at the time. “It is a prime, front row, center location in town and it’s always a shame to see a place like that just sort of linger, and the more that we can get those places revitalized it’s going to be a plus for the whole community.”

On Oct. 19, City Council voted 3-2 to move forward with the planned restaurant. Councilmembers Toni Iseman and George Weiss dissented.

Finney’s Crafthouse will include the service of alcohol and outdoor seating. There will not be live entertainment and, after a discussion and modification by council, the restaurant will close at midnight. 

Plans include updating/repairing the exterior of the building, enlarging the existing dining patio and exterior modifications to the K-rated structure listed on the city’s Historic Register. A folding door will be installed between the dining and patio areas. 

A variance to exceed the maximum building height allowed was also approved to make room for rooftop equipment, which was moved out of public view. New skylights were also approved.

Most of the council discussion revolved around the hours, location of trash containers, the seating count and parking.

Then-Mayor Bob Whalen made a recommendation, which was later worked into the approved motion, to set the closing hour at midnight (as opposed to the 1:30 a.m. requested in the application), a maximum of 120 seats (compared to the requested 143) and that the property owner obtain an agreement with the county to continue use of the library space for trash containers. If the agreement cannot be maintained, the applicant shall be responsible for constructing a new trash enclosure on-site or entering into a new agreement for storage of trash.

New crafthouse White House front

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Finney’s at the White House is expected to open by the end of the year

It’s a California casual, American tavern restaurant with a cost-effective menu.

The proposed menu features more than 50 made-from-scratch favorites, including shareable appetizers, gourmet salads, tacos, flatbread pizzas, signature burgers, sandwiches and steaks. The applicant also proposes to feature rotated craft and locally sourced beer on tap. Prices range from about $9-$14 for starters to $10-$15 for salads, tacos, pizza, wings, sandwiches and burgers. 

Finney’s operators like to buy and restore old buildings, Marine previously pointed out, noting that at least three other locations are more than 100 years old. 

“It’s going to be a wonderful project for Laguna Beach,” he said. 

Keeping the White House name in some way was important, he noted at the September Planning Commission meeting. 

Marine’s father bought the White House in 1959 and ran it through the 1950s and 1960s. 

At the time, it was the place to be. His father later sold the business, but kept the land, explained Marine, who worked at the restaurant as a busboy and dishwasher when he was a teen.

“This is kind of like the jewel of our family properties,” Marine said. 

The most recent owner and operator had been there for nearly 40 years. It started to go downhill and closed just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.


Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.


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