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Downtown’s ‘Never Closed’ Original Pantry Cafe Shut Down by Health Department

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And ownership is really trying to keep it under wraps

A historic diner cafe sits in front of a crosswalk filled with people.
The Original Pantry Cafe yesterday
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.

Downtown Los Angeles’s 95-year-old diner the Original Pantry Cafe has been closed by order of the LA County Public Health Department. Reached by phone, a worker at the restaurant said they intend to be open again by Friday.

While temporary restaurant closures are nothing new for the industry — particularly for old school spots in dense parts of any urban area — the closure of the Original Pantry Cafe is unique for a few reasons. First, the restaurant had previously maintained an upstanding rating from the health department, scoring A’s across the board for its last six inspections.

Second, the Original Pantry Cafe famously touts that it never closes. Not only does the iconic restaurant, which has been designated a historic cultural monument by the city, operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it even has a painting on one wall that reads:

The Original Pantry
Through a door that has no key, you will enter a cafe that has never closed

Of course, that’s not entirely true. The restaurant was actually closed back in 1997, again by the health department, even while owner Richard Riordan was acting mayor of Los Angeles.

Instead of acknowledging the temporary closure, the Original Pantry Cafe has been telling customers over the phone that they are down for renovations and to decorate for the holiday season. Signs hanging in each window of the corner restaurant at Figueroa and 9th simply say “we apologize that we are not in to serve you. However, don’t pout Christmas is coming soon!” The rest of the note, which is decked out in Christmas colors, says that the staff “expect(s) to be ready in a few days,” and that in the meantime they are working to “complete our Holiday Cheer decorating.”

A health department closure notice is tucked away on a door.
The secretive Health Department notice
Farley Elliott

Interestingly enough, the health department closure notice is hanging on the front door of the Original Pantry Cafe (as mandated) but the restaurant has pulled open both doors and instructed staffers to sit in the entryway to inform passersby that they are simply redecorating. The only way to see the actual health department closure notice (for a “cockroach infestation at the back of the facility”) is to ask a staffer to move, and peek around the other side of the open door.

Again, the Original Pantry Cafe has maintained a clean record dating back to 2017 at least, and closures happen every day around Los Angeles — even in tony parts of town like Beverly Hills. Still, it seems that this time at least, the restaurant is doing plenty to hide its record from the public.

The Original Pantry Cafe. 877 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles.

The Original Pantry Cafe

877 South Figueroa Street, , CA 90017 (213) 972-9279 Visit Website