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Monday, September 26, 2016

Not all is well in Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction

This past weekend’s Sunset Junction Street Fair was an opportunity for many Silver Lake merchants to promote their businesses to the sweaty masses that descended on the neighborhood. But there was no one to welcome festival goers at Eat Well. The once popular Sunset Boulevard coffee shop that helped revive Sunset Junction remained off limits, with its vacant interior hidden behind a black metal security fence and a tattered awning. The restaurant that served heaping piles of food accompanied by ear drum-puncturing music suddenly closed it doors nearly two years ago and never reopened. The closure has left a big economic hole in the heart of Sunset Junction that has many people wondering why such a prime piece of retail real estate has remained vacant for so long.

“Nobody really knows what the story is,” said Danny Davis, whose leather goods store, Dean, is located near Eat Well. “It definitely has hurt people on the block for sure. Who knows what it could be like if it was open.” The owner of another neighboring shop summed up her feelings this way: “It sucks.”

There was talk that a new restaurant was getting ready to open last year, and laborers have appeared every once in a while to demolish parts of the interior, according to other merchants. But so far there are no signs that the place is anywhere near being reopened.

Eat Well opened in the 3900 block of Sunset Boulevard during the early 1990s as part of a chain of coffee shops that began in West Hollywood. Merchants said the founders later sold the Silver Lake restaurant and its building to businessman Alfredo Diaz. He and his partner later resold the property but kept a long-term lease to operate the restaurant. Eat Well remained a magnet drawing large crowds to the block until it closed its doors in the fall of 2007. Nearby merchants reported seeing health department warnings on the shuttered coffee shop and were interviewed by state tax collectors asking questions about Eat Well.

Other restaurant owners have expressed interest in leasing the Eat Well space but Diaz has continued to make lease payments, said nearby merchants. Diaz, who was involved in Kokomo Cafe, could not be reached for comment. The general manager of Kokomo said a New York investment group now owns that restaurant. He said he was not familiar with Diaz.

While Eat Well remains closed nearby store owners complain that the vacant space now attracts trash instead of foot traffic. Joe Keeper, who owns Bar Keeper on the east side of Eat Well, said he no longer bothers to keep his barware store open in the morning since the coffee shop closed. “It cut two hours out of my day,” said Keeper, who is frequently asked about what’s going on with the space next door. “I just say I don’t know anything.”

Sarah Dale, who owns Pull My Daisy, said the closure of the coffee shop has not only deprived the block of business but of a sense of community created by the regular Eat Well customers. The Eat Well diners “we part of my community and my life,” said Dale, who once lived in an apartment above the restaurant. “I just don’t see them anymore.”



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