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Business & Real Estate

Beauséjour bids au revoir to Los Altos

Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier Beausjour owner William Yee, left, greets customers at his restaurant. After 26 years in Los Altos, the eatery is closing its doors at the end of January.

Beauséjour Restaurant in Los Altos has a quiet, dignified ambience. With six separate dining rooms, European country decor and a small wall library right out of an old Sherlock Holmes movie, it’s refreshingly out of step in an age where restaurants with noisy atmospheres are the norm.

William Yee, owner and executive chef, reflects the personality of his French restaurant: quiet, welcoming and gracious. He looked back on his 26 years on State Street, with nostalgia, grateful and maybe a little sad. That’s because Yee and Beauséjour are leaving at the end of the month.

“This has been a great community that supported me all 26 years,” Yee said.

However, this may not be adieu for Yee – more like à bientôt.

“We’re going to try to look for another space (locally),” he said. “I would continue at the high end, maybe some kind of bistro.”

Yee said he’s enjoyed a supportive relationship with his landlord, Passerelle Investment Co. Passerelle owns the building, 170 State St., where Beauséjour resides.

“I have enormous respect for (Yee) and what he has done for the Los Altos community,” said Amanda Tevis, co-founder of Passerelle. “I look forward to seeing what his next endeavor is going to be.”

Meanwhile, Passerelle is reviewing its options for the 26,000-square-foot building, yet to be revealed.

“We’re pursuing the repositioning of the property,” Tevis said.

Looking back

The restaurant business is Yee’s life. As a younger man, he married a Vietnamese woman whose family exposed him to French cuisine. He opened his first eatery on Union Street in San Francisco, and a few years later opened La Tour in Palo Alto. In 1980, Yee opened Au Charbartin restaurant in Los Altos in the 170 State St. building, then owned by Los Altos Hills resident Jack Melchor. After a few years, Yee explored restaurant opportunities in Southern California. But when Melchor contacted Yee about available space in 1986, the restaurateur was ready to return to Los Altos.

He named his new restaurant after a favored Bourdeaux wine. Yee produced a wine bottle labeled Château Beauséjour, vintage 1986.

The early days of Beauséjour were filled with satisfied customers dining on the likes of Yee’s specially prepared duck, filet mignon, escargot and lobster ravioli. Yee opened a downstairs “cellar” offering a full bar and dancing to the sounds of light jazz.

“In 1986, we were very busy – at the time, there wasn’t much competition,” he said.

But he noticed a downturn after 9/11.

“After Sept. 11, the business went south,” he recalled.

Although faithful, older customers came back time and time again, attracting new diners proved difficult. And now his chapter at Beauséjour is coming to a close.

Yee looked over a wall of photos displaying celebrities who had visited the restaurant – former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter. He recalled his participation in community events, such as Chefs Who Care. Yee provided dinners with half the proceeds going to the Community Services Agency.

“We also donated soups for homeless people,” he said.

His message to his customers and community is one of gratitude.

“We know lots of folks in Los Altos,” he said. “We thank Los Altos for the support.”

For those wishing to visit Beauséjour one last time, call 948-1382 for a reservation or visit www.beausejourlosaltos.com.

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