Small changes are happening at Olde Port Inn restaurant in Port San Luis, but the new owner says the heart of the restaurant will stay the same.
David Whitestine, former chef and manager of the restaurant on the Harford Pier, purchased the 44-year-old establishment from Leonard Cohen in December and since then has slowly been updating the property, he said. He declined to disclose terms of the purchase.
"(Cohen) had just gotten to a point where he had to decide if he was going to give up the business or sell it," Whitestine said. "I decided I didn't want to see Olde Port go anywhere, and since I'd been in chef-ing for about 30 years, it seemed like time to go into the ownership part of it."
Whitestine, who has worked on and off at the restaurant since 1998, said he has replaced the chairs and refurbished the floors in the main dining room, bought new patio furniture for outside and begun replacing the main dining room windows to help improve the ocean views.
He said he is also in the process of adding some new items to the menu — mainly pasta dishes — and highlighting dairy- or gluten-free options.
"All the old favorites will still stay on the menu," Whitestine said. "We just are adding some more cost-efficient options for people and updating a bit."
Whitestine won't make any huge changes to the restaurant in the near future because of the possibility of a major reconstruction project for the buildings on the pier, though that project is still indefinite, and at least four years away, he said.
In the meantime, Whitestine said he is coping with the day-to-day challenges of running a restaurant, including compensating for less foot traffic following the closure of the Avila Beach Pier on June 19.
Officials closed that pier indefinitely after reports that the structure was swaying under the weight of too many tourists watching whales.
Before the closure, Whitestine said, June sales at Olde Port Inn were at their highest point for any June on record. The weekend after the closure, however, sales were about $12,000 less than what they were that same weekend the year before.
He attributed the drop to confusion over which pier had been closed and has since used social media and other local media to inform county residents that the restaurant and pier are open for business.
"It's been a process," he said Friday, "but I think we're starting to bounce back. We'll have to see."