LAX: Another restaurant may open at Theme Building, but it probably won’t happen soon

If you want to see the view from the LAX theme building, you'll have to check it out from the observation deck, open Saturdays and Sundays.

If you want to see the view from the LAX theme building, you’ll have to check it out from the observation deck shown here, open Saturdays and Sundays. The restaurant in the building is now closed. Photo: Katie Murphy.

If you were hoping the Encounter restaurant atop the LAX theme building would reopen soon under a new name, I have some bad news for you.

According to airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles, Westfield, a major company handling concessions at the airport, declined to take over the restaurant space when competitor Delaware North closed the place at the end of December. Westfield would have been the logical choice.

The space formerly operated by the Encounter offers some of the best airfield views you’ll see anywhere. The problem is that the food never was very good, and the place was difficult to get to. It was also last renovated almost 20 years ago, so whoever operates it next — assuming someone takes over — will have to do a lot of work.

Here’s what Castles wrote when I asked for an update.

Following Westfield’s decision to decline the opportunity to develop the concession space in the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Theme Building, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) will explore future development options. LAWA is currently in discussion with other concession operators who have shown interest in the space, and is considering several options.

The good news is that there is an outdoor viewing area above the restaurant. It is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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After technical difficulties, LAX theme building observation deck to reopen Saturday

The LAX observation deck will remain open on Saturday's and Sunday's. Photo: Katie Murphy.

The LAX observation deck will remain open on Saturday’s and Sunday’s. Photo: Katie Murphy.

The observation deck atop the iconic theme building at Los Angles International Airport will reopen Saturday after it was briefly closed due to elevator trouble, airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.

A Tweet sent by airport police over the weekend said the observation deck would be closed “until further notice,” which worried some of my readers, who feared it would never reopen. The deck is enough of a security risk that an airport police officer sits in the lobby whenever the deck is open. That’s presumably a significant expense, and some thought it might just be easier to close the deck forever.

According to the L.A. Times, the theme building was closed for almost a decade after 9/11, only opening again in 2010. During that period, the building was upgraded for seismic reasons. The Times says the building is 135 feet high — just high enough to get a good view of the terminals and airfield.

The observation deck is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s worth a visit if you’ve never been and have some time to kill. I don’t know of any other airport with such a great airport-run viewing area, though presumably there are some. (George Hobica ranked some of the best observation decks recently for USA Today.)

There are some great views from the LAX theme building observation deck. Photo: Katie Murphy.

There are some great views from the LAX theme building observation deck. Photo: Katie Murphy.

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The Encounter restaurant at the LAX theme building is now closed

The Encounter restaurant atop the LAX theme building closed in December, but likely will reopen under another name soon. Wikimedia Commons photo.

The Encounter restaurant atop the LAX theme building closed in December, but likely will reopen under another name soon. Wikimedia Commons photo.

The Encounter restaurant atop the iconic theme building at Los Angeles International Airport closed at the end of December when the operator’s lease ended, airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.

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