With 21 years left on its lease, Who Song & Larry’s says it isn’t going anywhere.
Perched along the Columbia River, east of the Interstate 5 Bridge, the restaurant has plans to renovate its building by turning a wall on the outdoor patio into a garagelike door with a U-shaped bar extending outside.
Within the last two years, the building, at 111 S.E. Columbia Way, has also gotten new flooring to replace carpet and a fresh coat of gray paint that replaced a faded white exterior.
The total renovation will tally around $1 million, said Chris Lankford, senior regional director of Xperience Restaurants, the California-based company that owns Who Song & Larry’s.
All the investments came after a decision in late 2018, when Who Song & Larry’s was in discussions with Kirkland Development to develop the property.
Kirkland proposed to build a nine-story mixed-use development on the ground where Who Song & Larry’s and Joe’s Crab Shack stand. It approached both restaurants with a pitch to fit them into the new developments.
Those talks fell through, but not until after Kirkland Development submitted an application to the city of Vancouver for the development, which included a rendering.
“There were talks in the past of working on a deal,” Lankford said. “We decided against it, and we were happy with where we were. We decided to invest in the property.”
The Columbian incorrectly reported earlier this year that the buildings, owned by ACW Properties LLC, were set to be demolished.
“We’ll be here forever,” said Lankford. “We’re not interested in changing our footprint or our floor plan or relocating. We’re not going anywhere.”
Lankford said the lease for the property is 40 years long.
A representative from Kirkland Development said the company had no comment on the property.
But the future of the property next to Who Song & Larry’s is still an unknown.
Joe’s Crab Shack’s ownership group announced in May that the restaurant was permanently closed because of struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Columbian could not reach ACW Properties for comment.
Lankford said the building’s closure could mean Who Song & Larry’s will benefit because of more parking and less competition.
“We’re sorry to see them go,” said Lankford. “But if anything, we’ll see us grow stronger.”
Those same pandemic struggles caused Who Song & Larry’s to switch to takeout and delivery in March, but it never closed.
Once Clark County reopened for Phase 2, the restaurant has seen plenty of customers return for dine-in, said Lexi Bonds, general manager, especially because of the large riverfront patio that can seat roughly 90 people.
Having the ability to send home fresh-squeezed-juice to-go cocktails, including margaritas, has also helped the business during the pandemic, Bonds said.
Xperience Restaurants, based in California, also owns Chevy’s restaurants and other national chains. It bought Who Song & Larry’s from Real Mex (RM Holdco LLC) after Real Mex sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early 2018.
Lankford said that Who Song & Larry’s prides itself on serving only from-scratch dishes, including the salsa that’s made from boxes of tomatoes, onions and herbs shipped into the restaurant whole.