Photograph Tour of the Influence That Coronavirus Is Having on Los Angeles
The current novel coronavirus pandemic has ground much of greater Los Angeles to a halt. City, county, and state officials have declared a Safer at Home mandate that requires individuals to remain in their own residences except for essential needs like food (yes, delivery and takeout from restaurants is still possible, though dining in is not allowed), healthcare , grocery shopping, and outdoor exercise in immediate neighborhoods. County officials have even gone so far as to close public beaches and hiking trails due to overcrowding, and just this week Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti even shut down farmers markets within city limits, pending approvals for safety measures that would ensure social distancing. Street vending is basically outlawed once again, and most restaurants are encountering record profit losses and mass layoffs across Southern California.
The result, as it currently stands, is a rather bleak image of the once-formidable Los Angeles dining scene. Restaurants, hotel properties, malls, and other large developments have all been forced to significantly scale back or close altogether, while some operators worry (rightfully so) about break-ins while they’re away. As it currently stands, LA mayor Garcetti’s Safer at Home mandate extends to April 19, though California governor Gavin Newsom’s overlapping imperative does not yet have an end date. For now, life continues in Los Angeles’s food world, it just looks very, very different.
Hotville Chicken’s Kim Prince and a worker hold up a bag of takeout Nashville hot chicken Matthew Kang
Some restaurants, like Hotville Chicken and the Trap Kitchen food truck, continue to hold on, offering food to locals and those willing to drive for pick-up. There are no more lines of customers hovering around for a table at Jitlada in East Hollywood’s Thai Town, though.
A sign at Jitlada that’s normally where the waiting list is posted in LA’s Thai Town Matthew Kang
Sapp Coffee Shop owner Jintana Noochlaor sits inside her Thai Town restaurant Matthew Kang
Daikokuya in Little Tokyo Wonho Frank Lee
Antico and Spoon by H, two of LA’s most talked-about restaurants of 2019, have managed to stay open by innovating. Antico now does takeaway ice cream and focaccia pizzas, while Spoon by H is doing bento-style boxes filled with two dozen small items.
Customers waiting in line at Antico in East Larchmont Wonho Frank Lee
A contactless drop in front of Spoon by H’s parking lot Wonho Frank Lee
Simplee Boba in South Pasadena Farley Elliott
A warning sign at Tabula Rasa in East Hollywood Farley Elliott
Other, bigger locations like Grand Central Market and the Original Farmers Market have seen much of their foot traffic disappear, though some restaurants inside continue to offer takeout and delivery for customers. Otherwise, it’s closed stalls, overturned chairs, and even some caution tape.
Bob’s, still selling donuts, at the Original Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles Wonho Frank Lee
Quiet times at the Original Farmers Market Wonho Frank Lee
The empty walkways Wonho Frank Lee
Dupar’s is open Wonho Frank Lee
No seating Wonho Frank Lee
Chairs in front of Belcampo at LA’s Grand Central Market Wonho Frank Lee
Overturned chairs and not much else at Grand Central Market Wonho Frank Lee
At restaurants like Howlin’ Ray’s in Chinatown and Virgil Village’s Sqirl, much of the restaurant itself is defined by lines of hungry diners. That’s a problem during the time of social distancing, so Sqirl owner Jessica Koslow (shown below) has closed the restaurant’s dining/ordering area, instead using a table up in front at the door to take orders. She and her team then hand off dishes on the sidewalk, or run them out to cars.
Handing out product safely at Sqirl in Virgil Village Wonho Frank Lee
In the Sqirl kitchen Wonho Frank Lee
Jessica Koslow standing behind a temporary counter at her LA restaurant Sqirl Wonho Frank Lee
Not everyone has been able to weather the new delivery and takeout-only mandates. Some restaurants have closed permanently, others are up in the air, and yet more continue to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic with boarded up windows and closed (for now) signs.