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Palo Alto's 44-year-old The Fish Market becomes latest restaurant to close temporarily

Uploaded: Dec 10, 2020
The Fish Market, which has served fresh seafood fare at 3150 El Camino Real in Palo Alto since 1976, is the latest local restaurant to shutter temporarily in the hopes that doing so will preserve the business long-term.

The Fish Market decided to close the original Palo Alto restaurant and a Santa Clara outpost this month, seeing the writing on the wall with rising coronavirus case counts and the likelihood of another shutdown, said Dwight Colton, president of Fish Market Restaurants. Soon after came the news that Santa Clara County would be preemptively implementing the state's regional stay-at-home order, shutting down outdoor dining until at least Jan. 4.

Pre-coronavirus, the bar at The Fish Market, which opened in Palo Alto in 1976. Photo by Sinead Chang.

Closing meant about 100 employees across the Palo Alto and Santa Clara Fish Markets were laid off.

"We've all lost sleep and have tried to map out any other option other than coming to this point," Colton said, "but takeout and delivery options are just not sustainable for our buildings."

The Fish Market isn't the first and likely won't be the last local restaurant to go into hibernation in the coming weeks. Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View has also temporarily closed until 2021.

The Fish Markets in Palo Alto and Santa Clara reopened this fall after several months of closures, but outdoor dining was "hit or miss," Colton said. "It was very difficult to get traction and do enough business to make it sustainable."

The Fish Market in San Mateo remains open given outdoor dining is still allowed in San Mateo County. It already had a waterfront deck with outdoor seating — a more attractive option, Colton said, than the makeshift, tented dining setups in the parking lots at the Palo Alto and Santa Clara restaurants -- and has more robust takeout, delivery and retail sales.

Cioppino served at The Fish Market in Palo Alto, which has closed temporarily due to the shutdown. Photo by Sinead Chang.

The Fish Market's two Southern California locations also remain open for takeout and delivery.

Colton is committed to reopening The Fish Markets in Palo Alto and Santa Clara sometime next year, when the COVID-19 vaccine starts to be available, weather improves and limited indoor dining can resume. Even with the previous limits on indoor dining — 25% capacity — being able to serve diners inside remains "the real key to the success of our restaurant," Colton said.

"I think everybody in the industry initially, when we were talking about limited capacity, we couldn't fathom how we'd make a go of our business at 25%. Most operators, ourselves included, have made significant changes to try to live in a 25% capacity world," he added. "We're not going to thrive at 25% but (would) be able to sustain the businesses."
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Lynne Henderson, a resident of Mountain View,
on Dec 11, 2020 at 9:01 am

Lynne Henderson is a registered user.

My family, friends, and I have loved the Fish Market in Palo Alto since it opened. May it hibernate safely and return to us --with salmon, of course!--as soon as it is possible to do so.
In the meantime, we're not supposed to travel outside SCC, as I understand it, otherwise I would zip up to San Mateo.
See you in the spring?

Posted by NanaDi, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 11, 2020 at 10:54 am

NanaDi is a registered user.

Such sad news. I haven't lived in Santa Clara county for the past 10 years, but when I did, your excellent restaurants were my Go-To places for fresh Seafood served in a charming atmosphere. It is truly tragic, how this will affect you and all your Workers. I wish for your quick recovery to come soon.

Posted by Lee Forrest, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 11, 2020 at 11:04 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user. many recall when the current Fish Market site was Uncle John's Pancakes?

Or when the SP commuter crossed ECR right nearby...onwards to downtown Los Altos & finally to Los Gatos?

Posted by Kathy, a resident of another community,
on Dec 14, 2020 at 11:35 am

Kathy is a registered user.

Santa Clara Fish market is an 'outpost'??? Santa Clara location is their 2nd restaurant, has been around for decades, opened in 1979, and is larger than the Palo Alto location. Why is that anything south of Palo Alto is given short shrift?

Posted by 1drin, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Dec 14, 2020 at 12:46 pm

1drin is a registered user.

Sorry to see another Palo Alto restaurant having to close down.
And amused to see that snowflakes from 'another community' feel so offended that a given restaurant is called an 'outpost' by the cruel Ms Kadvany.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove,
on Feb 8, 2021 at 6:55 pm

Dave is a registered user.

I have been coming to the Palo Alto Fish Market since Sept 1977 when I first arrived to work at Varian next door. So sorry that outdoor dining was not going to work with such a big building to maintain. Today I visited with Driftwood Market down the block where I also went in 1977 and hope everyone gets their amazing sandwiches so he can stay. I hope Fish Market can come back by end of 2021. It could be so successful again in the future.

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