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Real Estate Developer Co-Opts Name of Restaurant It Forced to Close

Virgil Village’s beloved former Cha Cha Cha is fighting back against some new condos that are using its name without permission

The 24-unit condo project on Melrose and Virgil avenues is named Cha Cha Cha
The 24-unit condo project on Melrose and Virgil avenues is named Cha Cha Cha
Courtesy of Joy Bolger/Compass, photo by Erik Grammer
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

A Los Angeles property developer is getting pushback online for co-opting the name of the restaurant that his company razed in order to build condominiums. The new Virgil Village development is selling now under the name Cha Cha Cha, which is the same as a beloved restaurant that used to stand at the very same Virgil Village site, before it was forced to close back in 2016 to make way for the new building. The developer says the tribute is to preserve the site’s history, but in an interview with Curbed LA, Cha Cha Cha’s former owners believe it’s a “a slap in the face.”

Cha Cha Cha closed in 2016, and its previous partner Javier Anaya — who also co-owns Pinches Tacos — believes it was, ahem, a bold move by 4Site Real Estate’s Todd Wexman to use the name (and some of the place’s old neon signage) to help sell the new development. 4 Site Real Estate’s chief principal admits he did not approach the former Cha Cha Cha team before installing the sign, and suggests the former owners “would be flattered.”

“I was in such awe when I saw that they had the audacity to do that,” says Anaya. When Wexman’s company Virgil Melrose LP bought the land in 2016 for $2.5 million, locals feared this marked the beginning of change for the neighborhood. Cha Cha Cha operated for nearly 30-years on the corner of Virgil and Melrose, and was replaced by condos priced between $399,000 to $950,000.

No future Cha Cha Cha is in the works, but Anaya’s complaint is larger than the sign. “When big developers come in and do that, they’re taking away from what people originally loved about Silver Lake,” says Anaya.

The late Toribio Prado opened Cha Cha Cha with Mario Tamayo in 1986. In 2003, Chef Prado’s three nephews assumed the business. Anaya and his cousins attribute uncle Toribio with his start in the restaurant business. “Whenever we think of ‘Cha Cha Cha, we always think of him,” says Anaya.

A number of longstanding nearby businesses have subsequently been pushed out since Cha Cha Cha’s 2016 departure, including the eviction of family-owned Super Pan, which closed in 2018 after 20 years. Virgil Avenue’s evolution continues, with mainstays like Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl and Melody Wine Bar holding court. Future tenants also keep signing leases in the popular neighborhood, including the forthcoming Butter Cake Shoppe, and Tanka.