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Irv’s Burgers given an eviction notice June 14, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Television.
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Irv’s Burgers, a landmark on Route 66 in West Hollywood, Calif., for more than a half-century, was served a 30-day notice to vacate the premises by its landlord, according to Scott Piotrowski, an expert on Route 66 in Los Angeles County.

It’s not certain when Irv’s last day of operation is. But Piotrowski said the restaurant likely will be gone by the end of June. Sonia Hong and her family, who are Korean immigrants, have faithfully operated Irv’s since 2000.

Piotrowski wrote on the Route 66 yahoogroup:

The property owners and Sonia, the operator of Irv’s, have not had a long-term lease agreement in place for many years. It has been a month-to-month situation.

The property owners have attempted to institute a rent hike of approximately 67% on Sonia at the property. I am not sure of the details as to how or why, but for some reason that did not ever go through.

Last month, a 30-day vacate notice was served to Sonia and her family.

At this time, it is unclear as to how long Sonia actually will remain open at Irv’s Burgers. We know it will go through this weekend. It is expected at this time that Irv’s will close on June 29.

We know that the property owners have wanted to remove Sonia and her family from the location for some time. With the monument status, we BELIEVE that a demolition permit would not be able to be granted. However, it is possible that once there is no operating business within the building, the owners may attempt either an illegal demolition or more likely to try to show it as an unviable business / building and ask for an exemption. It is also possible that they property owners are looking to bring in a new tenant willing to pay the rent that they requested of Sonia.

Piotrowski is asking roadies to patronize Irv’s Burgers in the next few weeks or so to show support and deliver a “thank-you” to the Hongs. In the meantime, the Burger Brigade, which a group of local activists whose protests prevented the removal of Irv’s nine years ago, will try to search for a new site for the Hongs to run.

It’s been known for months that developers wanted to create a Beach Cafe lounge and restaurant in that site, and actually had a plan in place to merge Irv’s into the design. Apparently negotiations to keep Irv’s there fell through, or the developers abandoned that part of the plan.

Irv’s originally was a Queen’s Burgers stand back in 1950. It’s at 8289 Santa Monica Blvd. George Motz, host of the Travel Channel’s “Burger Land,” has often cited Irv’s as having one of the best burgers in the country.

UPDATE 6/19/2013: I received this emailed statement from Tamara White, public information officer with the City of West Hollywood:

Irv’s is located in a historic building that is not being demolished but is instead being rehabilitated in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Resources.  For clarification, the Irv’s building was designated by the City as a local cultural resource in 2005, providing specific protection of the structure.  It cannot be torn down without several stringent findings being made at a public hearing per West Hollywood Municipal Code 19.58.110.

The approved plans allow for both buildings on the site to be rehabilitated into two restaurants.   The plans include the renovation and reuse of the former auto repair building, including an outdoor dining patio, and the rehabilitation of the Irv’s building to remain as a restaurant.   The current entitlements require that the rehabilitation work to the building in which Irv’s Burgers is currently a tenant be completed prior to the opening of the second restaurant on site.  Although the City has no authority with regard to commercial landlord and tenant matters, we have been in contact with both and offered them our assistance.

UPDATE 6/22/2013: The operators of Irv’s have been told they can stay at their location until they find another. The developers reportedly have made an offer to buy them out.

(Photo of Irv’s Burgers by waltarrrr via Flickr)

Comments»

1. Scott Piotrowski - June 14, 2013

I would also like to let everyone know that I plan on being there tomorrow morning, Saturday June 15, at about 10am. I’ll be doing my best to document the building as much as possible just in case anything happens to it after the Hongs move out. Of course, I’ll be eating lunch there, too. Any 66 enthusiasts in the area are encouraged to stop by and introduce themselves, and of course, to pick up lunch! (If anyone needs to reach me in advance, I can be emailed at rt66prods (at) yahoo (dot) com or reached on cell at 818-207-0358.)

2. steve sumpter - June 14, 2013

Bummer it is a shame to have landlords get greedy and make unreasonable rent hikes. I never had a chance to eat at Irv’s but I know it was one of Ron’s top picks for best burgers.

3. Scott Piotrowski - June 15, 2013

Just back from breakfast there. Yes, it’s now 2pm. No, it was not traffic. I had the pleasure of spending some time talking to several people about the future of the business. At this time, they have paid rent through the end of this month. The vacate notice takes effect the 20th of this month. At this point, there is no honest date being given as to when they will close down. I will provide more information as it becomes available.

4. Ian Bowen - June 16, 2013

Thanks for getting this out there, Scott. Just sent a tip to Curbed LA with a link to this article — hopefully we can garner plenty of support extending beyond the 66 community.

5. Rose Bruno Bailey - June 18, 2013

I cannot believe it, Irv’s is an institution in the neighborhood as is Sonja. She is the sweetest soul and must not be forced out. The neighborhood would be sorely lacking without her presence.

6. Tom Pardoe - June 18, 2013

Sonia told me months ago, before our city council elections.. ‘Vote for Prang/Duran!!!!, they support Irv’s Burgers. Please tell everyone you know to write to Jeffrey and John and ask them what is to be done!!

7. Edward Salm - June 18, 2013

This place was given a Local Cultural Landmark Designation by the City of West Hollywood in 2009/2010. Doesn’t that mean anything, or make any difference?

Scott Piotrowski - June 19, 2013

The vast majority of the last two posts by Edward Salm are correct. The landmark status of the building does protect the building itself to some extent. The extent of protection has grounds for variance dependent on approvals. By and large, the building itself has not been the question raised. The primary initial issue here is that the property owner is requesting a rate increase of about 67% on the Hongs, which would make the current business model non-viable. In other words, Sonia and her family would not be able to continue to operate Irv’s.

Once the business is out of the building, it is POSSIBLE that a property owner could begin to take drastic measures with the property. Idle neglect is one possibility. I’m not saying that I have any belief that this particular owner will do that. However, continuing to operate a profitable business in an historic location seems to me to be an option that virtually all of us would like to see continue, especially when that business has been so friendly and loving to the community. I also do not believe that too many people would find a 67% rent increase to be fair either.

It is important to note that at no time have I indicated the demolition of the building is imminent. As a preservationist that is a big concern of mine, to be sure. However, in the times that I have been to Irv’s I have come to realize that the Hong family is not only a part of the community of West Hollywood, but also an iconic example of Route 66 in their attitudes and behaviors to their visitors and guests. So while the preservation of the building IS important to me, it is the CHARACTER of the business that they present that I am attempting to help preserve.

8. Edward Salm - June 18, 2013

This was just posted by John Duran on Facebook:
Many of the blogs around town are printing misinformation on Irv’s Burgers in Weho. Here is the correct info:

The City of West Hollywood would like to correct the story on Irv’s Burgers. Irv’s is located in a historic building that is not being demolished but is instead being rehabilitated in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Resources. For clarification, the Irv’s building was designated by the City as a local cultural resource in 2005, providing specific protection of the structure. It cannot be torn down without several stringent findings being made at a public hearing per WHMC 19.58.110.

The approved plans for the current project allow for both buildings on the site to be rehabilitated. The plans include the renovation and reuse of the former auto repair building as a restaurant, including an outdoor dining patio, and the rehabilitation of the Irv’s building. The current entitlements require that the rehabilitation work to the building in which Irv’s Burgers is currently a tenant be completed prior to the opening of the second restaurant on site. Although the City has no authority with regard to commercial landlord and tenant matters, we have been in contact with both and offered them our assistance.

9. Robby Mendez - June 22, 2013

I’m bringing at least 20 of my friends on Friday June 28th to protest in front of this beautiful place, bring paper and markers please. We will be here starting at 4 PM and we might even camp here if necessary. Please guys invite your friends too and invite the news as well. I’ll do my best so Sonia can keep her place. I talked to her today and she was very sad and usually she’s very happy. I love this place and I will not let it go without a fight. I just found out about it today and it breaks my heart. I used to live in WeHo, but since I moved out I didn’t know. Its never too late to do something. if you want to keep in touch with me email me at [email protected] I’m an activist and a soon news reporter so please support my cause. Gracias :)

10. Rod - June 22, 2013

Once they are out, I’m sure the landlords will do the same thing they did to the beloved landmark hotel, the Ambassador–secretly go in and bulldoze it down in the middle of the night. If we couldn’t save the hotel where Robert Kennedy was shot, what hope do we have on saving Irv’s?

Scott Piotrowski - June 22, 2013

While the fear is valid, the idea of linking this property owner to that of the Ambassador is unfair. We can guess all we want about the current owner’s goals, but the fact of the matter is the current development plan for the property includes the continued operation of Irv’s as a burger stand. (I’m just not sure what operator would be willing to pay $7K per month for that space.)

Billy - June 18, 2013

Boycott any new businesses here

Scott Piotrowski - June 18, 2013

Before boycotting any new businesses, let’s find out what actually happens at Irv’s. It’s not done yet. We need to keep supporting the Hongs and Irv’s in the interim.

From the City of West Hollywood website ….

You can contact Councilmember Jeffrey Prang at West Hollywood City Hall through his deputy, Michael Haibach ([email protected]), at (323) 848-6460. To subscribe to his bi-weekly e-mail newsletter, please forward your e-mail address to [email protected]

You can contact Councilmember John J. Duran at West Hollywood City Hall through his Council Deputy, Ian Owens ([email protected]), at (323) 848-6460.


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