Los Angeles

Olvera Street Merchants Worry About Keeping Business Afloat

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Since the closures of businesses began due to the coronavirus pandemic, merchants in Olvera Street have been worried about keeping their business alive.

For the last 90 days, with the exception of some restaurants, Olvera Street has been closed.

And the merchants here are concerned that those 90 days could ultimately destroy 90 years of history.

“It’s very heartbreaking for many of us,” said  Sylvia Gribbell, from The Mexico Shop.

Generations of families with one thing in common, they live to tell the story of the history of Los Angeles.

“It’s not just a place of business, it’s our home, a family, people we work side by side with,” said Gribbell. 

“My family has owned it for 60 years but our history goes back 90 years when our family had the grocery store across the street,” said Greg Berber, of La Luz Del Día restaurant.

Greg Berber owns La Luz del Día restaurant. you probably already know their famous carnitas tacos – and while every LA council member signed the 60-year anniversary certificate – he says not one has reached out since the city closed the famous alleyway.

“It’s out of sight, out of mind,” said Berber. “No one is reaching out to calm our fears about the birth place of Los Angeles, something all the council members should be worried about.”

Some 75 merchants say they are at risk of closing down for good if the city doesn’t forgive their rents. They haven’t had to pay during the pandemic but some worry once the stay at home order is lifted, they’ll have a hard time staying afloat.

“And for the past two months, each month I’ve been down 90% in sales,” said Berber.

“We know everybody is hurting, but we need that help,” said Valerie Hanley, of Casa California.

Valerie Hanley is a third generation merchant and runs Casa California. inside, the vibrant colors customers might remember, today - seem dull, an eerie reminder that Olvera Street is struggling.

“Most of us haven’t paid the second half of our property tax bill and we’ve got late fees and delinquencies and everything. So we just see us further in a hole,” said Hanley.

While the city council has the motion on the table to forgive at least two months rent for olvera street merchants, it hasn’t come to the full council for a vote yet – things like defunding the police department taking center stage instead.

“It’s important for all our cultural identities, this is where LA started so we should protect it,” said Berber. 

“If not the culture, the traditions, everything we do here will go away,” said Hanley.

Right now some merchants are getting ready. It’s possible some merchants could start opening and start selling by this weekend.

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