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Olvera Street cafe La Golondrina faces eviction following dispute with city of Los Angeles

La Golondrina Café has been a mainstay on Olvera Street since the 1930s, but its current owners must pay more than $242,000 in back rent or face eviction.

The Mexican restaurant closed in March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, and owner Vivien Bonzo ultimately sought to sell the business, which had been in her family for three generations. The building where the restaurant is located dates from the mid-19th century.

David and Bertha Gomez, who worked at one of the colorful candy stands on Olvera Street, offered to take over the restaurant. The couple began the process of transferring ownership of the business in September 2021, when the Los Angeles Historic Landmark El Pueblo Board of Commissioners approved the deal.

But the Gomezes say they weren’t informed of the commission’s approval until February 2022, according to a lawsuit they filed against the city earlier this year.

A commission spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

In their lawsuit, the Gomezes claim the city and a local union blocked the process of transferring ownership of the restaurant. The Gomezes also say a major plumbing problem in the historic building, which the city says is their responsibility, prevented them from opening the business.

The city of Los Angeles said the Gomezes were scheduled to start paying their rent in March 2022.

The business never reopened, according to a three-page report from the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Landmarks Authority, the city department that oversees maintenance and operations and approves concession agreements for the creation new businesses.

The commission was scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss La Golondrina’s possible expulsion, but the hearing was postponed to a later date.

The department says the Gomezes face eviction if they can’t pay $242,306 in back rent and about $46,000 in common area maintenance fees, which don’t include interest charges. , according to court documents.

The legal dispute was first reported in the Esotouric Secret Los Angeles newsletter.

The Gomezes say a plumber discovered serious problems in the building and that the city was responsible for the repairs. They provided an estimate of $90,000 to the city, according to court documents.

La Golondrina is located in one of the oldest brick buildings in the city. According to LA Taco, the restaurant is on the ground floor of the two-story Pelanconi House, built in 1850, the same year California became a state. The building’s plumbing hasn’t been replaced in several decades, the Gomezes claim in court documents.

But the city says that under its concession agreement with the restaurant, the Gomezes are responsible for the repairs, according to the city report signed by El Pueblo Landmark General Manager Arturo Chavez. No plumbing problem would excuse the restaurant owner from paying rent, Chavez added.

The Gomezes said in their lawsuit that they could not operate their business without repairing the pipes and that they lost at least 10 months of profits.

Los Angeles Times

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