Lunch With Don

The Paloma Group had the honor of hosting Don Novack at our HQ last week.  Don is the owner of Hal’s Bar and Grill and Casa Linda Mexican Grill here in Venice. Hal’s, which for almost 30 years has served as a community hub for Venice Beach, left their original location on Abbot Kinney last year.  The last days were full of emotional farewells, but a new location has been announced down the street.  We can’t wait to welcome Hal’s back to our neighborhood soon. 

Don is also a veteran in the Real Estate industry and has been involved in more transactions than most people know. We provided Don with some questions as a framework for our meeting with him, but it quickly turned into a story on the history of Hal’s and how it came to be. Hal’s, a staple in the Venice community, evolved out of a real estate deal and a partnership gone bad.

Don had locked down a listing to sell a restaurant business called the Merchant of Venice on Abbot Kinney. He put the business in escrow with a pair of so called restaurateurs. In the final stages of the escrow one of the two buyers was getting cold feet and threatened to back out of the deal. In an attempt to save the deal, Don got creative.  “I looked to the other guy and asked him if he knew what he was doing. He explained to me that he did, so I said ok I am going to restructure this deal.  I will throw in my commission, just give me a cheeseburger every now and then and send me a K-1 for taxes every year. I’m an easy partner. I don’t know restaurants, so you run the show.”

Don was a realtor with 100 agents under him and five offices to oversee. His company was syndicating deals and in 1979 alone they purchased 50 apartment buildings. Venice was a rough place back then. Don described the gang activity in the area: “There were the Crips and the Bloods at war behind Abbot Kinney. You couldn’t drive up and down the block without getting stopped and offered drugs.”

Two years went by and the partner ran the restaurant into the ground. Don had to take on all the debt (over $250k) and told the “restaurateur” to never come back to Venice and to never step foot in the restaurant again. Don and his wife Linda brought the restaurant back to life with the help of Hal Frederick, a local Maître D at the West Beach Café (now James Beach). 25 years after opening Hal’s, Don and Linda opened Casa Linda Mexican Grill. The rest is history….

Don and Linda have already opened the new Casa Linda on Abbot Kinney and are working towards the grand opening of the new Hals (located next door to Casa Linda). They are also opening a Hal’s at the Runway Playa Vista this year. We are happy to have Don as a friend of The Paloma Group.