A duo of prominent Los Angeles restaurants have formally closed this week, each making big statements about their shutters on social media. The uncertain moment for restaurants across the country has been described as an ‘extinction event’ already, and with no coronavirus vaccine on the horizon and no federal intervention until then, Southern California’s food scene is likely to lose many more beloved spots in the months to come.
First up is Preux & Proper, the Southern/New Orleans-themed spot in Downtown LA known for its po’ boys, seafood boils, crab hushpuppies, and cocktails. Owner Josh Kopel and four-year chef and partner Samuel Monsour had run the place since 2014, turning out food that then-LA Weekly critic Besha Rodell called delightfully “over-the-top” in 2016. “There aren’t enough words to express how much we appreciate every single person who walked through that door,” the team relayed in a statement to Instagram last night.
Meanwhile over at LA Weekly, Kopel left behind an op-ed on his closure and the greater terrible restaurant moment, saying in part:
In the restaurant industry, we succeed by injecting a personal connection into a financial transaction. Our guests aren’t paying for food; they’re paying for an experience. They want to be served, cared for, and feel valued.
These are universal desires, and they transcend the foodservice industry. Now, when I begin to chart the path forward, I see that every business is in the hospitality industry. I wonder if it’s possible to inject our values into other business models. I wonder if I’m locked within the four walls of a restaurant or if our values have a transcendent quality.
Could it be our industry that leads the world on a new, more considerate path?
The second big closure is the prominent corner coffee bar Caffe Vita, which had stood at the edge of Los Feliz and Silver Lake for more than seven years. For a time, it seemed the shop would never reopen following closure notices statewide. back in March, but the space did attempt a small comeback earlier this summer that only lasted weeks.
Now the Seattle-based company is gone for good, saying on social media that a “shocking and unexpected increase in our rent” had led to the decision to shutter. “We spent months trying to negotiate our lease renewal,” the post continues, “however, we were ultimately forced to make the heart-wrenching decision to close.” In the comments below, some baristas expressed dismay at the company for failing to give more notice of the closure, which was formalized on August 28.
The landlord refrain for closing businesses has become a common one across the country, even for other local businesses like Belle’s Bagels in Highland Park. And while, overall, LA’s restaurant scene is seeing a drop in rents, many landlords are still using the current pandemic to ask for more money, or to renegotiate leases that could put restaurants on the brink. There are few easy answers without federal financial intervention, only increased uncertainty for those workers and owners in the restaurant world.