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One of L.A.’s Oldest Mexican Restaurants, Olvera Street’s La Golondrina Café, Faces Eviction

The future of Olvera Street as a tourist destination has been in jeopardy since the pandemic, with reduced foot traffic and tens of thousands of back rent owed by concerned tenants there, who have all reported lower sales from both restaurants and merchandise.

12:04 PM PDT on September 14, 2023

La Golondrina.

La Golondrina. Photo courtesy of Esoutoric’s Secret Los Angeles Substack.

Until 2020, if you wanted a refreshing margarita after taking down a couple of crispy flautas from Cielito Lindo, you'd be able to ride your taquito euphoria just a few feet up to La Golondrina Café and enjoy one of the most refreshing margaritas in downtown Los Angeles.

But like with all restaurants worldwide, that changed due to pandemic-era closures. La Golondrina, one of L.A.'s oldest restaurants, never reopened after 2021. Now it faces certain eviction from the Board of El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument Authority Commissioners.

The group is meeting at 2 PM today in the basement of the Biscailuz Building to discuss the eviction of the café’s tenants over an outstanding rent of $242,306, as well as unpaid common area maintenance fees of approximately $46,000, as reported by Kim Cooper and Richard Schave of Esotouric Tours in their latest Substack newsletter, Secret Los Angeles.

The rent dispute is more complicated than it seems, though. According to the report:

Those new operators have a lawsuit pending in Los Angeles Superior Court that raises disturbing questions about the relationship between disgraced Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León, the hospitality union UNITE HERE! Local 11, and Arturo Chavez, the General Manager of El Pueblo Historic Monument, was previously a senior staffer for fellow disgraced councilmember Gil Cedillo.

La Golondrina is located on La Placita Olvera, a narrow street in the middle of downtown next to the official birthplace of Los Angeles (back when California was part of Mexico). This street—down to the Spanish-style architecture—hasn't changed much since the 1800s.

The restaurant officially opened in 1930, but the two-story house that it occupies was built back in 1850. To history buffs, the home is known as the "Pelanconi House," a significant landmark because it was the first brick building in Los Angeles and remains the oldest standing today.

The future of Olvera Street as a tourist destination has been in jeopardy since the pandemic, with reduced foot traffic, and tens of thousands of back rent owed by concerned tenants there, which have all reported lower sales from both restaurants and merchandise.

According to the report, Vivian Bonzo, the third-generation owner of La Golondrina Café, decided to retire in 2021 and tried to sell her family's restaurant, but that's not so easy to do on historic Olvera Street. Due to the city’s competitive bidding rules, concession agreements are essentially restricted to families that have been vending for many years.

The future of the restaurant will be decided today at 2 PM.

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