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A Photo Tour of the Dramatic Impact That Coronavirus Is Having on Los Angeles

From closed restaurants and boarded-up windows to new kinds of dining, this is LA during COVID-19

A worker stands with a face mask on in front of a black food truck.
Trap Kitchen food truck in South LA
Matthew Kang

The current novel coronavirus pandemic has ground much of greater Los Angeles to a halt. City, county, and state officials have declared a Safer at Home mandate that requires individuals to remain in their own residences except for essential needs like food (yes, delivery and takeout from restaurants is still possible, though dining in is not allowed), healthcare, grocery shopping, and outdoor exercise in immediate neighborhoods. County officials have even gone so far as to close public beaches and hiking trails due to overcrowding, and just this week Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti even shut down farmers markets within city limits, pending approvals for safety measures that would ensure social distancing. Street vending is basically outlawed once again, and most restaurants are encountering record profit losses and mass layoffs across Southern California.

The result, as it currently stands, is a rather bleak image of the once-formidable Los Angeles dining scene. Restaurants, hotel properties, malls, and other large developments have all been forced to significantly scale back or close altogether, while some operators worry (rightfully so) about break-ins while they’re away. As it currently stands, LA mayor Garcetti’s Safer at Home mandate extends to April 19, though California governor Gavin Newsom’s overlapping imperative does not yet have an end date. For now, life continues in Los Angeles’s food world, it just looks very, very different.

An owner hands over a bag of hot chicken as a staff member looks on.
Hotville Chicken’s Kim Prince and a worker hold up a bag of takeout Nashville hot chicken
Matthew Kang

Some restaurants, like Hotville Chicken and the Trap Kitchen food truck, continue to hold on, offering food to locals and those willing to drive for pick-up. There are no more lines of customers hovering around for a table at Jitlada in East Hollywood’s Thai Town, though.

A handwritten outside sign warning of customers congregating during coronavirus.
A sign at Jitlada that’s normally where the waiting list is posted in LA’s Thai Town
Matthew Kang
A lone owner sits inside of a restaurant wearing a mask during coronavirus.
Sapp Coffee Shop owner Jintana Noochlaor sits inside her Thai Town restaurant
Matthew Kang
A yellow awning with discount signs at a ramen shop during coronavirus.
Daikokuya in Little Tokyo
Wonho Frank Lee

Antico and Spoon by H, two of LA’s most talked-about restaurants of 2019, have managed to stay open by innovating. Antico now does takeaway ice cream and focaccia pizzas, while Spoon by H is doing bento-style boxes filled with two dozen small items.

Three customers wait in front of a dim restaurant with the door open.
Customers waiting in line at Antico in East Larchmont
Wonho Frank Lee
A worker wearing a mask drops food into the passenger seat of a car.
A contactless drop in front of Spoon by H’s parking lot
Wonho Frank Lee
Customers linger around in front of a boba shop with a red awning.
Simplee Boba in South Pasadena
Farley Elliott
A sign asks anyone with respiratory ailment symptoms to stay away from a wine shop.
A warning sign at Tabula Rasa in East Hollywood
Farley Elliott

Other, bigger locations like Grand Central Market and the Original Farmers Market have seen much of their foot traffic disappear, though some restaurants inside continue to offer takeout and delivery for customers. Otherwise, it’s closed stalls, overturned chairs, and even some caution tape.

A customer stands ready to order doughnuts in an otherwise closed market.
Bob’s, still selling doughnuts, at the Original Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles
Wonho Frank Lee
Stools covered with paper bags for no seating at a market stall.
Quiet times at the Original Farmers Market
Wonho Frank Lee
No customers and empty hallways at a farmers market area.
The empty walkways
Wonho Frank Lee
A sign says We Are Open in a window of a restaurant during coronavirus.
Dupar’s is open
Wonho Frank Lee
A bench covered with yellow caution tape for no seating.
No seating
Wonho Frank Lee
Two customers look into a meat case at an otherwise empty market.
Chairs in front of Belcampo at LA’s Grand Central Market
Wonho Frank Lee
An empty marketplace with overturned chairs and dim lighting during coronavirus.
Overturned chairs and not much else at Grand Central Market
Wonho Frank Lee

At restaurants like Howlin’ Ray’s in Chinatown and Virgil Village’s Sqirl, much of the restaurant itself is defined by lines of hungry diners. That’s a problem during the time of social distancing, so Sqirl owner Jessica Koslow (shown below) has closed the restaurant’s dining/ordering area, instead using a table up front at the door to take orders. She and her team then hand off dishes on the sidewalk, or run them out to cars.

A worker hands food to a delivery driver in a mask and gloves.
Handing out product safely at Sqirl in Virgil Village
Wonho Frank Lee
A worker at a restaurant bags food while wearing black gloves.
In the Sqirl kitchen
Wonho Frank Lee
A restaurant owner stands behind a table taking delivery and takeout orders during coronavirus.
Jessica Koslow standing behind a temporary counter at her LA restaurant Sqirl
Wonho Frank Lee

Not everyone has been able to weather the new delivery and takeout-only mandates. Some restaurants have closed permanently, others are up in the air, and yet more continue to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic with boarded up windows and closed (for now) signs.

A customer waits in front of boarded up but painted windows for food.
Downtown’s Mignon remains open, but has boarded up its windows.
Wonho Frank Lee
Jeff Won stands outside of Jun Won in Koreatown waiting for customers to pick up food.
Jeff Won stands outside of Jun Won in Koreatown waiting for customers to pick up food.
Matthew Kang
Ann Kwon packs craft beer cans to go at Biergarten in Koreatown
Ann Kwon packs craft beer cans to go at Biergarten in Koreatown.
Matthew Kang
The Line Hotel is boarded up beneath a sign for an Alfred coffee shop.
The Line Hotel is boarded up beneath a sign for an Alfred coffee shop.
Matthew Kang
A papered-over window for a restaurant, complete with yellow sign.
Crack Shack Pasadena is closed
Farley Elliott
A coffee shop closed and boarded up on a corner of a street.
Vita Coffee in Los Feliz
Farley Elliott
A spread out line of waiting customers at a grocery store.
Six feet of distance at a Trader Joe’s
Farley Elliott
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