An anti-gentrification group called Defend Boyle Heights led a protest at the kosher Asher Caffe & Lounge last Thursday, which coincided with the East LA cafe’s grand opening date. According to Boyle Heights Beat, the group demanded a neighborhood boycott and claims owner Asher Shalom is a Trump supporter with anti-immigrant views.
Defend Boyle Heights describes itself as an “anti-gentrification coalition devoted to community and our hood.” On July 12, Defend Boyle Heights organizers called for an emergency protest at Asher Caffe, and shared a screenshot of Shalom’s Facebook page with far-right and anti-immigrant posts. Eater confirmed these social media posts on Shalom’s Facebook page.
A Thursday video posted to the Defend Boyle Heights Facebook page showed upwards of 30 protesters crashing Asher Caffe’s grand opening. LAPD guarded the cafe parking lot entrance, with a small group of patrons driving in and out of the parking lot. There were no reports of violence.
Last Tuesday prior to the protest, the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce removed Shalom from its membership. Chamber president Jennifer Lahoda returned Shalom’s membership dues, and chose not to attend Asher Caffe’s Thursday ribbon cutting ceremony. The chamber’s decision was based on Shalom’s anti-immigrant social media posts.
Asher Caffe is in an industrial part of Boyle Heights with few food options available. Shalom also owns Asher Fabric Concepts, a fabric and textile distributor located across the street from their the cafe. When Eater spoke with project manager Sergio L. Yang in January, Yang believed the cafe had neighborhood support, “We are pretty remote, and will be the only restaurant in this area,” said Yang. “It is exciting to see our local neighbors be excited about our existence.”
This present fight in Boyle Heights is a complex one. A number of Boyle Heights businesses were embroiled in gentrification protests over the last few years, but Asher Caffe is a kosher restaurant. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, Boyle Heights was upwards of 40% Jewish. Canter’s Deli’s original location opened in 1931 on Brooklyn Avenue, which now known as Cesar Chavez Avenue.
Eater reached out to Defend Boyle Heights, but has not heard back. When reached for comment, Shalom released the following statement:
“I immigrated to this country 30 years ago and I am blessed and grateful to have been a part of the Boyle Heights and Downtown LA community ever since. Boyle Heights is my second home and it’s where I’ve started two businesses, including Asher Caffè & Lounge. Through my businesses, we have proudly created hundreds of jobs for the community. My staff and team members come from diverse backgrounds, and some of them are immigrants themselves. I consider many of them great friends and family, and I am humbled to work alongside my talented and diverse staff. I am proud to be an immigrant and wholeheartedly support hiring fellow immigrants.
I believe that all people should be treated with humanity, dignity and respect - there is no hate tolerated at Asher Caffè & Lounge. It has always been my vision to create a communal space for Boyle Heights where family, friends and colleagues can come together over good food and to celebrate what makes our community so great.
As a deeply involved member of the Boyle Heights community, Downtown LA and the surrounding areas, I support the Hollenbeck Community Police Station and the LAFD in any way I can. Asher Caffè & Lounge has always been proud to extend a 40% off discount to our hardworking law enforcement, fire departments, CHP and armed forces (army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard). I humbly support and donate to various organizations within Boyle Heights, such as local churches and schools.
Please know that the doors to Asher Caffè & Lounge are open to all - everyone has and always will be welcomed.”
Asher Caffe. 945 S Boyle Avenue, Los Angeles, CA