Tears were shed into beers when the news arrived this January that Quinn’s Lighthouse — a historic waterfront restaurant in downtown Oakland that had operated for 40 years straight — was shutting down.

A manager at the time blamed a number of things for the abrupt closure, from rising costs and minimum wage to major sports teams like the Warriors and the A’s leaving Oakland.

But now a new challenger has arrived to face off against the tumultuous restaurant climate of the East Bay. Nathan Tran and his family have assumed ownership of Quinn’s Lighthouse and are quietly testing out a small menu that should appeal to fans of the old Quinn’s and lovers of Vietnamese cuisine.

The goal is to do a soft opening in May, says Tran. “This is a historic little area that everybody loves. It’s been here forever and seeing it abandoned in the middle of Oakland” was not good, he says. “It’s a great neighborhood — we’re right on the water with the boats and the marina — and this is a great opportunity to bring up the city and have a space for people to come visit.”

Tina Tran, left, talks with customers at Quinn's Lighthouse Restaurant and Pub on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. Tran is part of a new ownership group along with her brother Nathan and cousin Hannah Nguyen that have recently re-opened the water side restaurant. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
Tina Tran, left, talks with customers at Quinn’s Lighthouse Restaurant and Pub on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. Tran is part of a new ownership group along with her brother Nathan and cousin Hannah Nguyen that have recently re-opened the waterside restaurant. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

Quinn’s Lighthouse has been a fixture on this somewhat gritty stretch of the Oakland Estuary since 1984. The original building was constructed in 1903 as the Oakland Harbor entrance light, which was deactivated in the 1960s and moved to its present location where it came to host a restaurant. Locals and random passing sea captains knew it for its classic seafood dishes, peanut shell-covered floors and sea-shanty singalongs.

The building was not in the best shape, Trans says, and they’re doing various repairs right now. Until the full opening, they’re offering a limited menu that includes banh mi — including a filet-mignon version with pate and meatballs  — and grilled shrimp, pork belly and chicken rice plates, garlic noodles and Vietnamese specialty food like bánh xèo (crepes). The hours are long — from 7 a.m. to midnight or even 1 a.m. daily — which should appeal to various customer demographics.

Quinn's Lighthouse Restaurant and Pub on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
Quinn’s Lighthouse Restaurant and Pub on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

Folks who crave the menu at the previous Quinn’s need not worry, as the kitchen is making clam chowder from scratch and frying fish and chips, popcorn shrimp, chicken wings and salt-and-pepper calamari. There’s also a drinks list with a lychee martini, blood orange margarita and various fruity flavors of mojitos.

The Tran family is not done with just reviving the old lighthouse. They also have plans to develop the defunct Victoria Station right across from Quinn’s into a new bar and lounge. Look for that to open, fingers crossed, by winter 2024.