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Profits Down 95 Percent, Prominent Mexican Chain Closes All Locations Statewide Temporarily

Plus, Bossa Nova chooses a new location after 27 years, and what it means to get a positive COVID-19 test at a restaurant

A corner shot of a Mexican restaurant during the daytime.
Puesto in Irvine
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.

A prominent (and growing) Mexican restaurant chain has closed all of its California locations this week, owing to safety concerns among staff and dramatically reduced income without the ability to offer on-site dining. Puesto, with its seven locations from Santa Clara County in the Bay Area to Irvine to its home base in San Diego, has fully shuttered for the time being, laying off all but 20 members of its 650-person team across the entire chain, with reps telling Eater that “even at their strongest the sales are so low that they cannot continue to operate” until on-site dining is allowed once again, which could still be many weeks away. Sales at some locations, they say, have dropped by as much as 95 percent, and given the big-ticket locations (including at some retail spaces like Park Place in Irvine) and little help from landlords, ownership says there is no viable economic path to staying open right now.

Puesto’s story is far from a one-off, given the ongoing challenges restaurants are facing every day with COVID-19 still pushing heavy through the region, and little in the way of federal financial intervention to keep them economically propped up in the meantime — but the group is unique in its scale, and its decision to simultaneously shutter all locations across the state. More locally, restaurants, clubs, music venues, and plenty of other small businesses continue to ask for private assistance in the form of fundraising campaigns just to pay past due bills, and it remains unclear how many will survive into the spring without a more robust bailout. On the public health front, LA County’s health system continues to be massively strained, with one person dying roughly every five minutes from coronavirus complications.

In other news:

  • Vienna Pastry in Santa Monica has closed permanently, reports WhatNow LA. The 65-year-old restaurant had indicated that it may not be able to hold on without massive support from fans via GoFundMe.
  • Speaking of GoFundMe pages, there are more than ever around LA right now, as businesses ask for community support to shore up financial needs. Case in point: This ongoing fundraising campaign for Santa Monica Board and Brush, a women-owned space for groups to get together, drink, and make stuff together. Further east, the Silverlake Lounge is also asking for support, seeing as how the bar and entertainment venue has been almost entirely closed since the start of the pandemic.
  • Kismet Rotisserie has closed after a positive COVID-19 test among staff, as has Little Flower in Pasadena. Want to know what that really means, behind the scenes, for restaurants to shutter due to a positive test, while large businesses like Cypress Park’s 28-case Home Depot remains open? Here’s an incredible explainer from the LA Times that dives deep into just this predicament.
  • Amara Kitchen earned some well-deserved praise over on the Eastsider last week. The popular neighborhood cafe restaurant in Highland Park is still planning to open a second location in Altadena, but for now owner Paola Guasp is continuing to serve her original community with “a health-conscious menu, and a killer chocolate chip cookie.”
  • Kogi BBQ is now selling bulk packages of its sauces at Smart & Final, with flavors ranging from Korean BBQ to sweet orange chili sauce with garlic and soy.
  • 27-year West Hollywood Brazilian restaurant Bossa Nova has closed its former location, moving instead to Sunset Plaza at 8630 W. Sunset Boulevard.
  • Rockwell Kitchen is now open in Malibu. The semi-permanent setup run by chef Alla Rockwell operates as a food truck and (once allowed) open-air dining set-up, working a menu from coffee drinks and pastries to tacos, a turkey burger, and more.