Mellow Spanish tapas spot Cobras & Matadors on Beverly Boulevard has closed for the second time, at least according to its Instagram page, but not without a bit of controversy. In a post announcing the closure, ownership seemed to throw a few barbs at LA’s unhoused population on the way out the door. The restaurant claimed it was “busted” last month by the Los Angeles Police Department’s vice squad for allowing the on-site consumption of alcohol without an approved license, seeming to suggest the supposed police action led to the closure, though forced closures for serving alcohol without a license at restaurants are incredibly rare. The abrupt shutter comes less than a year after the quiet neighborhood hangout from Steven Arroyo reopened in Beverly Grove, and a full 11 years since the original Cobras & Matadors first closed back in 2012.
“We got busted for allowing some of the coolest, most chill diners in Los Angeles to BYOB last Thursday night,” says the restaurant’s last Instagram post (shown below). “Meanwhile [LAPD] continues to endure the countless encampments, illegal head shops, and whatever else feels like going down.”
While many in the post’s comment section offered their condolences to the restaurant, several people also called out owner Arroyo for what they saw as insensitivity surrounding the city’s unhoused population, and the seeming attempt to connect the closure of Cobras & Matadors with a separate city issue entirely.
“Implying you wish the police terrorized unhoused folks instead of busting you?” reads one comment. “Way to go from in the right to in the absolutely wrong so fast.”
Another commenter asks: “What would you like the LAPD to do to the unhoused folks you’re complaining about?”
Eater reached out to the restaurant for comment several times but has not heard back. Eater also reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department regarding the alleged incident at Cobras & Matadors, but was not immediately able to verify whether any citation was actually handed out. Per an official with the state ABC board, allowing the on-site consumption of alcohol at a restaurant without an active license is a misdemeanor, and usually results in a written warning at first offense — so it’s unclear why Cobras & Matadors would cite an LAPD “bust” as the reason for its closure. Even multiple citations by government officials (or even multiple arrests, in the case of Burbank’s Tinhorn Flats) usually do not lead to the immediate closure of any restaurant. Cobras & Matadors does not currently have an active ABC license or a pending license application.
A decade ago, Cobras & Matadors was one of the city’s true neighborhood gems, an easygoing hangout near the Grove that specialized in low lighting, date night vibes, and Spanish tapas. Owner Steven Arroyo, a longtime hospitality veteran, closed the restaurant after service on Valentine’s Day in 2012 to allow sister project Escuela Taqueria to move in. Then, in March 2022, he revived the restaurant in its original location at 7615 Beverly Boulevard after Escuela moved just down the street to yet another, larger corner location. Now Cobras & Matadors seems once again gone for good — though it’s anyone’s guess for how long this time.
Update: February 6, 2023: Ownership deleted the Cobras & Matadors Instagram page. A screenshot of the original post can be seen above.