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Queen Mary’s Observation Bar, 1930s lounge, officially reopens Friday

Two beloved Queen Mary features — the Observation Bar and the Chelsea Chowder House & Bar — have officially opened for business, marking the latest phase in the iconic vessel’s broader reintroduction to the public after its three-year closure.

The Observation Bar, aptly named for its panoramic views of Long Beach’s coastline, opened on Friday, May 19. The chowder restaurant opened last week.

The Observation Bar epitomizes the Art Deco décor of the 1930s, boasting original artwork, period-specific furniture and distinct torchiere lamps. During the Queen Mary’s heyday, it served as a first-class lounge for some of the ship’s more famed guests, including former United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill and former President Dwight Eisenhower.

For the ship’s operators, Evolution Hospitality, preserving that history was key.

“It really just took trying to get it to be as period true as possible to try to restore it to its original beauty,” said the ship’s general manager, Steve Caloca, said in a Friday interview. “(We took) down really anything that was more present day, contemporary, like the TVs — and just (made) it all about the view and the experience so everyone is able to listen to the music enjoy each other’s company with the best view of the city.”

The adjoining Observation Deck, Caloca said, has also been restored to its original teak flooring — as was the historic gun deck that sits below it.

“It’s really cool because there’s two staircases leading from the (Observation Deck) down there,” Caloca said. “So if somebody wanted to take a drink and just go down the stairs and just kick back out there, they can.”



The Queen Mary’s Chelsea Chowder House & Bar, which reopened to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner service on Friday, May 12, underwent similar restoration efforts over the past several months.

Various portions of the ship have gradually begun to welcome back visitors since the start of the year, after the Queen Mary had undergone a series of critically needed repairs to ensure public safety.

Three tours resumed in early April, for example, with the Paranormal Ship Walk evening tour set to resume soon. The Queen Mary hotel also opened for stays shortly after. There are currently about about 200 state rooms — out of 247 total — available for bookings through Dec. 31.

Those tours were attended by nearly 10,000 people, according to a Long Beach city staff report released in early May, with about 3,000 booked stays in the hotel generating about $720,000 revenue.

The Queen Mary’s operators are planning a grand reopening celebration for sometime in June — though an exact date has yet to be announced. Even so, Caloca said, restoration and preservation of the ship will be ongoing, with other Queen Mary icons, including the fine-dining restaurant Sir Winston’s, not set to reopen until early 2024.

“We’re kind of doing it in steps, based on the amount of rooms that we have open to the public,” Caloca said. “We’re getting there. This is something long term, this is something that the city believes in and it’s certainly something we believe in — and we think we can just bring joy to people all over the world.”

And for some, like 9-year-old Alex Triculescu, the Queen Mary offers just that.

The Triculescu family flew from Michigan to spend Alex’s ninth birthday on aboard the historic vessel on Friday, which he’d been hoping to come see in person since he first learned about it during the pandemic.

“I found a video that I clicked on, and it was very interesting, it was about this ship,” Triclescu said. “And that’s where I got like, oh, maybe I should give this a try.”



He and his family were among the first members of the public to enter the Observation Bar since the ship closed about three years ago.

“I have a slight opinion that this is a very good ship,” Triculescu said. “I was kind of impressed (by) the history and I also saw the first steamship model, and it was like pretty interesting how the technology was back in the 1800s.”

The next big projects aboard the Queen Mary, meanwhile, will include restoring the ship decks and carpets.

All of the flooring in most of the main public areas have already been restored to their original teak wood, and new flooring has been installed in the Main Hall — one of the Queen Mary’s most highly trafficked areas. Aside from what Caloca called “soft renovations” of the Observation Bar and Chelsea’s Chowder House, much work has also been done to improve the wharf area that serves as an entrance to the vessel.

“We use the phrase, i’I’s preservation and restoration,’ because we’re not going to say, ‘Oh my gosh, we just did this big renovation,’” Caloca said. “A lot of that stuff is coming in the future.”

Long Beach and the Queen Mary’s operators will now have a steady source of money to fund those ongoing restoration projects — alongside efforts to remake the ship into the tourist destination it once was — thanks to a recently approved deal with the Port of Long Beach.

The city will free up 13.9 acres of municipally controlled land — which currently houses some of the city’s oil operations — within the Port of Long Beach’s jurisdiction, allowing executives there to lease the land to interested parties. In exchange, the city will receive a $12 million advance from the port to support the Queen Mary’s return to the general public —  and half of any revenue created from future land leases.

That deal was approved by the City Council in early May, though its unclear when the Queen Mary will receive its $12 million.

The ship’s operators, meanwhile, plan to continue opening up other parts of the Queen Mary in phases — with Sunday brunch planned to resume sometime in July and the Prom Café set for an opening once more guest hotel rooms are brought back online.

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Source: Orange County Register

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