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The Real Reason Your Favorite Restaurant Might Close

Plus free ice cream in Los Feliz today, and more

Tacos from Revolutionario
Farley Elliott
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Restaurants worry about so much more than you know

There are endless reasons for any given restaurant to close, ranging from increasing overhead, a changing labor market, and shifting demographics to personal issues or bad investment deals. If anything, it’s more unique for a restaurant to actually successfully navigate all those hurdles than to stumble once or twice and end up confined to the restaurant history books. But there is one big issue hanging over the head of nearly any restaurant you’ll come across, and it’s one the average diner may never even think about: lease agreements.

In short, the vast majority of restaurants do not actually own the space in which they ply their trade. That means someone else owns the building, and the restaurant has a lease that must be paid to said owner first and foremost. Ever wonder how your waiter friend could possibly ever get hit with a bounced payroll check from the struggling restaurant they work at? The landlord gets paid first, and the employee dead last.

It’s these tricky lease agreements and their finer details, ranging from who (the business owner or the building owner) might have to pay to bring the plumbing up to code to opt-out clauses and termination dates, that could well be putting your next favorite restaurant in financial straits before it even opens.

And sometimes a building owner simply wants to sell the place off, make some profit, and move on, leaving a long-running restaurant with the quandary of either crafting a new deal with a new landlord, or being pushed out all together because the new owner wants to redevelop the property. The latter seems to be what’s happening with the Revolutionario team in South LA, at least per this newly minted GoFundMe page started by chef/owner Farid Zadi.

Inside Revolutionario in South LA

According to the page, the award-winning Revolutionario, known for its playful taco takes on North African flavors, is staring down the barrel of a sellout from the building’s owner. Unsure of the future of their lease, Zadi and company have decided on a novel approach: Try to put in a competing offer for the building. To do that, they’re trying to crowdsource their way to $250,000 to put towards an offer to the landlord, but fully admit that even with a hefty down payment they could still be outbid by other developers. Still, they don’t seem to be planning to go down without a fight.

In the past, such ambitious crowdfunding efforts have been met with middling success. Back in 2015, the popular Starry Kitchen tried to swing for the fences with a $500,000 crowdfunding effort that would give them room to find a permanent restaurant space. The push ultimately fell short however, leading Nguyen Tran to start pushing his product over UberEats. Eventually he partnered up with the Button Mash crew in Echo Park (where he now supplies endless amounts of those popular tofu balls), and seems to be comfortable there.

Perhaps Revolutionario will be successful in their efforts to raise a staggering amount of cash. But if not, there’s always hope for something in line with the Button Mash model, partnering with others to bring a unique new product to market. It might not be something nervous regulars at Revolutionario are even thinking about at the moment, but then again those tricky leases don’t get talked about much either.

Loving the Jazz

Lucky Peach sings the high praises of Jazz Singsanong, the matriarch of popular strip mall Thai option Jitlada. It’s an ode to her and her brother Tui really, and expounds on the potent nature of the pair’s fiery cooking. Together they’ve managed to reconfigure the Thai dining landscape in Los Angeles, and are still just as beloved as ever.

Free ice cream for the fans

Want a free scoop of ice cream? Get to McConnell’s in Los Feliz today, as the team there is celebrating their official grand opening with totally gratis scoops of ice cream between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. Just show up and enjoy.

Lodge Bread will close temporarily

Watch out for Lodge Bread’s big expansion, as it’ll take the Westside option offline for a few weeks. That’s according to Food Talk Central at least, which shows off the recently installed ABC license for the next-door beer and pizza expansion, with the note that the restaurant will need to close for much of February in order to install their new oven.

Go Get Em Tiger launched an app

Got some extra space on your phone? Then go download the Go Get Em Tiger app. It’s essentially a tool to let you pre-order coffee and even breakfast, and that’s about it. No real clutter, just expediency. The app is for Larchmont only at the moment (and only 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily so far) but apparently you can use code FIRSTTIMER to get a few bucks off your first purchase. So, basically, free coffee.

Pono Burger expands its menu

There are some big changes coming to the menu at Pono Burger, the mostly Westside Hawaiian-tinged burger option from chef Makani Carzino. Right now the new menu is only happening at their West Hollywood outlet, but expect everything from ahi poke to ramen bowls to chicken nuggets and corn dogs. An updated menu is below.