Los Angeles restaurants have been hit hard by two straight days of escalating protests in Downtown and greater Mid-City. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to voice frustration over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, earlier this month, as well as the Los Angeles Police Department’s own troubled history of violence, particularly against black, brown, and undocumented citizens. The enduring protests have drawn countless people out of their homes during a global pandemic, leading the governor to declare a state of emergency in Los Angeles County, and the mayor mandating an 8 p.m. citywide curfew yesterday.
Floyd, a black man, was held down on the pavement with a knee to his neck for over eight minutes by police officer Derek Chauvin. He died in custody even as he begged for help on video captured at the scene, saying repeatedly that he could not breathe. His death, along with that of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in her own home in Louisville, Kentucky, has led to protests across the country; in response, police have engaged in disturbing retaliatory violence and the National Guard has been mobilized in many cities, including Los Angeles.
Much of the restaurant damage centered around protest staging areas like Pan Pacific Park and Downtown near LAPD headquarters, though as Saturday wore on businesses further afield on Melrose, in Beverly Hills, and across Downtown were also impacted. Restaurants across Los Angeles County had only been told on Friday, with less than eight hours’ official notice, that they would once again be able to open their dining rooms to customers after nearly three months of lockdown orders during the global coronavirus pandemic. Restaurant owners have already been beset by plummeting sales, little to no government direction, and an uncertain economic future as the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 20 percent of the nation is unemployed, and 80 percent of all restaurant employees in Los Angeles are out of work.
Around midnight, Nancy Silverton’s vaunted Italian restaurant complex Mozza on Melrose was looted on live television as Silverton’s partner Michael Krikorian tried to get people to stop. “I yelled at them; I got them out of there,” Krikorian would later tell the LA Times. Petit Trois and Trois Mec, chef Ludo Lefebvre’s side-by-side strip mall restaurants, were also broken into across the street, with Lefebvre telling Eater that bullets shattered the front glass.
Nearby Mexican restaurant Petty Cash was also looted, as were restaurants up and down Fairfax. Canter’s Deli, the decades-old Jewish deli in the heart of the Fairfax district, posted on Instagram yesterday afternoon that they supported the Black Lives Matter movement, and that they would be leaving out bottles of water for protesters. The business, as well as others on the block, was vandalized.
At Third and Fairfax the historic clock tower atop the Original Farmers Market was defaced, and the building remained closed today. Next door, the outdoor shopping center the Grove saw multiple break-ins, and a small police kiosk inside the property was burned.
Josef Centeno’s Bar Ama and Baco Mercat remained closed in Downtown following Friday break-ins. Terroni, the corner Italian restaurant with another location also on hard-hit Beverly Boulevard, was completely boarded up after looters made off with countless bottles of wine and other goods on Friday night. Yuko Kitchen was heavily damaged on Friday as well, with the owner posting heartfelt pleas for rioters to stop the violence to her small business live on Instagram. The restaurant was fully boarded up on Saturday night.
Saturday night saw more destruction further up Broadway, as Buddy’s, the corner comfort food restaurant from bar owner Jim VanBlaricum was heavily damaged. Booths were overturned, nearly all the windows shattered, and some of the equipment had been pulled from the restaurant and smashed on the sidewalk. Next door, all seemed well at the boarded-up E Stretto sandwich shop in front of Bar Clacson, but co-owner Joel David Miller said that looters had still found a way in through the back alley entrance, making off with equipment and alcohol. “I don’t know what to do anymore,” Miller said this morning, with tears in his eyes.
Grand Central Market had some shattered glass, and a fire had been lit in the intersection overnight, but otherwise seemed unharmed, as did popular taco spot Sonoratown in the Fashion District. Many, including Guisados, ice cream shop Little Damage, hot chicken shop Red Chickz, and Joe’s Pizza had boarded up that afternoon.
Luke Reyes of the new 9th Street Ramen, himself a Downtown resident, said that his restaurant was spared. “Fortunately we have a gate,” he told Eater, “but the neighborhood is thrashed.” Armored vehicles and heavily weaponized National Guard units are currently patrolling the streets.
Chef Ria Barbosa only opened her casual Filipino restaurant Petite Peso in Downtown a few weeks ago. She boarded up its small windows overnight, leaving messages behind that she hoped would help spare her restaurant. “Justice 4 Big Floyd” one sign read; another added “We are a POC owned business.” The restaurant seemed to have emerged Sunday morning without damage, even as the neighborhood around it reckoned with a night of protests, anger, and heavily armored police.