‘Right now it’s basically pivot or die.’ LA’s popular restaurants permanently close during pandemic

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A patron sits at the bar of The Bazaar restaurant at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills, California December 10, 2008. Spanish chef Jose Andres owns The Bazaar. But it shut down in August 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters.

LA has developed into a respected food town over the last few decades. But the pandemic is cutting a swath through the region’s restaurants — high-end, low-end, and everything in-between.

Restaurants have had to shut down, pivot to take-out and deliveries only, shut down again, reopen with only outdoor dining. The changing rules and restrictions are hitting an industry that already has tight profit margins. 

The pandemic has been a recipe for disaster. Dozens of eateries have toppled in the past few months, and Eater LA has been tracking them. 

Eater LA Mona Holmes says the shuttered ones that stand out most are: 

- Here's Looking At You in Koreatown

- Pacific Dining Car in Santa Monica

- Swingers in West Hollywood

- Bon Temps in downtown LA’s Arts District. 

- Baco Mercat in downtown LA

- Broken Spanish in downtown LA

- The Bazaar and Somni by Jose Andres

Holmes says it’s challenging to identify a common thread among the shuttered restaurants. She gives examples: 

“Jose Andres owns both Bazaar and Somni, and that just closed last week. The problem with that closing was that he couldn’t figure out an agreement with the hotel management. And that was kind of problematic. But considering that he’s off doing these heroic things around the world and feeding people, I figure that’s the least of his problems.

But then there’s a place like Koreatown’s Jun Won. It was a place that was a mainstay in Koreatown. They were there for 27 years. Ad basically said they would close because of the pandemic and its economic fallout.”

Holmes says if there’s one thing to note, it’s rent. She shares what Andrea Borgen, owner of Barcito in downtown LA, is going through. “Her landlord is saying, ‘Where is my money at the beginning of the month?’ They’re not getting a break. They’re expecting to be paid in full at some point in time, even though their revenue is way, way down. … If they decide to close and break their lease, they still have to pay that money back. So these restaurants are really, really stuck right now.” 

However, other restaurants have gotten creative to stay afloat. “Right now it’s basically pivot or die,” says Holmes. 

Barcito has lowered prices for their food — $14 sandwiches now cost $10 — and expanded their wine and beer selection. 

Some restaurants are selling basic pantry goods to Angelenos too, and there’s an explosion of al fresco dining. 

“I’m sad that it took a pandemic to make outdoor dining and drinking more of a thing. We have the perfect temperatures for that. We’re blessed with that in Southern California. And I really do hope that winds up staying … when things get back to normal, whatever normal is,” Holmes says.

— Written by Amy Ta, produced by Jenna Kagel

Credits

Guest:
Mona Holmes - Eater LA - @monaeatsLA

Host:
Jarrett Hill

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel