Van Nuys’ 94th Aero Squadron restaurant closes its doors after nearly 50 years

View Original Notice ? Van Nuys’ 94th Aero Squadron restaurant closes its doors after nearly 50 years

The memories are still sharp for Vic Farhood, a West Hills resident who spent his childhood not far from the 94th Aero Squadron, the ivy-covered restaurant, with its stone walkways, its rich green gardens, doubling as a French chateau adjacent to the runway at Van Nuys Airport.

It was the place where generations of patrons gazed at planes taking off, touching down in the middle of a meal. There was the nostalgia, the themed images of the past – the aviation relics. There were the glances of a bygone era strewn about the site, from the wreckage of Army Jeeps and planes to the memorabilia on the walls and the “bombed-out” French farmhouse motif that it exuded.

It was a favorite past-time for Farhood’s mother, who especially enjoyed watching the planes take off and land, the din of aviation all around.

“We went there once or twice a year because my mom liked it,” Farhood said. “We went there on her birthday. Once, we took her there when the B-17 was coming in for an airshow. She got so excited about that.”

Farhood called the restaurant this past Christmas, but no one answered. He figured it was still closed because of the pandemic.

A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page in February anticipated a reopening and bookings of future events were still possible.

But the no-answer foreshadowed a more melancholy fate.

After 49 years of serving the San Fernando Valley with American cuisine and lessons in aviation history, the 94th Aero Squadron has permanently shuttered its doors.

“To all of our friends and family who kept checking, in anticipation of our reopening, we thank you for your support. To the aviation community, we have not forgotten about how special the 94th Aero Squadron is to you!” read a statement on the venerable restaurant’s website.

Done. Touchdown. Mission completed – after 1,078 Google reviews.

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • Tommy Gelinas, founder of the Valley Relics Museum, remembers family...

    Tommy Gelinas, founder of the Valley Relics Museum, remembers family outings to the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant, on Friday, May 20, 2022. The restaurant has permanently closed after 49 years of service next to the Van Nuys Airport. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • The 94th Aero Squadron restaurant, seen here on Friday, May...

    The 94th Aero Squadron restaurant, seen here on Friday, May 20, 2022, has permanently closed after 49 years of service next to the Van Nuys Airport. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

  • The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of...

    The famous 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant after 49 years of serving Van Nuys has officially announced they’re closing their doors on Wednesday, May 18,2022.
    (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing Photographer)

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The 94th Aero Squadron restaurant opened in November of 1973, and is one of several eateries owned by Special Restaurants Corp. throughout the U.S. including The Odyssey Restaurant in Granada Hills, Castaway Burbank and Proud Bird near Los Angeles International Airport.

The founder of the themed restaurant was David Tallichet, a World War II veteran and an aviator who flew 20-plus missions in a B-17 bomber. His legacy is seen in many of the restaurants.

A spokeswoman for Costa Mesa-based Specialty Restaurants Corp. said she had no comment as to why the restaurant closed — or if it would reopen in a different format.

A 2017 Eater Los Angeles article noted that Tallichet has always wanted to bring a sense of the World War European theater to his restaurant, which offered an ironically peaceful setting amid the “structured chaos” of the motif.

As a businessman, Tallichet, who died in 2007, was constantly dreaming up new concepts and schemes for themed restaurants nationwide, including his first, The Reef Restaurant in Long Beach in 1958.

That was followed in 1963 by the Proud Bird, under the final approach path to Los Angeles International Airport, and Ports O’ Call Village in San Pedro, which opened in 1964.

John Tallichet, owner of The Reef restaurant is celebrating 60 years in business in Long Beach on Wednesday, October. 24, 2018. The restuarant was founded by John's father World War II veteran David Tallichet. (Photo by Brittany MurrayPress-Telegram/SCNG)
John Tallichet holds a photo of his father David Tallichet, who founded the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant and several others through the region. (2018: Photo by Brittany MurrayPress-Telegram/SCNG)

Under the banner of Specialty Restaurants Corp., Tallichet would go on to become a pioneer in the industry, opening more than 100 eateries nationwide with themes ranging from World War II combat aeronautics – often in locales with views of airports like the Proud Bird in Westchester and the former 94th Aero Squadron in Torrance – to South Seas islands like Shanghai Red’s in Marina del Rey.

Tommy Gelinas, the founder and owner of Valley Relics Museum located at the Van Nuys Airport off Balboa Avenue, also grew up in the area. He said it was sad to see the pandemic take its toll on the popular restaurant.

“My parents loved going there and taking us kids to the restaurant for lunch,” Gelinas said. “You could see planes take off and land as clear as day, and we had the option of sitting outside on the patio and we waited to get a window seat.”

Gelinas said at one time silent movies were shown in the basement of the restaurant and it was decorated like a bombed-out shelter with sandbags.

“Later they had a discotheque there,” he added. In the mid-1970s, “Growing up, I’d sometimes just drive over and watch the airplanes. Up until the pandemic, I (took) my wife and kids there as a family tradition.”

Gelinas said, “It’s a shame after 49 years it is closing. The pandemic took a big toll on it. A few investors had mentioned last year it was going to be hard to bounce back, and wanted to buy it and reopen another restaurant and call it The Landing. But it didn’t go through.”

The Eater Los Angeles piece took note of a sister restaurant in San Diego of the same name. But the “charm” of the original Van Nuys spot was hard to beat.

“NOOOOOOOOOOO. SOOOO SAD!!,” Ronda Lipton wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “You will be missed. True great memories. I’ve spent so many occasions there … just watching the airplanes coming and going.”

Sheila MacDonell posted, “So Sad. Hopefully someone can come in and keep it going. Need this place.”

Ami Kaufman, a flight instructor for more than twenty years at Continental Aviation in Van Nuys, hadn’t eaten at the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant for some time.

But he said the best part about the restaurant was the view of the east runway, which is temporarily closed for repairs.

“You can eat and see planes take off and land on the east runway,” Kaufman said. “We use the east runway for training our students how to take off and land.”

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