High rent could force Village Pizzeria in Los Angeles out of business, but locals have rallied to show their support through a petition asking the pizzeria’s landlord to renegotiate the terms of the lease.
Described by Eater.com as “one of the most recognizable New York-style pizza spots in all of Los Angeles,” Village Pizzeria, located in L.A.’s Larchmont neighborhood, posted the petition on its Facebook and Instagram pages on October 8. Addressed to the management of American Commercial Equities, LLC, the petition reads, “We strongly encourage you to negotiate a fair resolution to the pre-pandemic high rent issue coupled with the mandated restrictions imposed on [Village Pizzeria] by the pandemic crisis which has devastated this boulevard and many other small ‘mom and pop’ establishments and communities.”
The petition notes that Larchmont Boulevard “now has 17 vacant stores and 13 more (plus) coming by year’s end. We cannot stand by watching the deterioration of our boulevard—a neighborhood gem—and watch as Village Pizzeria is added to this sad and increasing list of vacancies.”
In the Instagram post, Steve Cohen, the owner of Village Pizzeria, wrote that that his company has “been struggling to keep up with the insane demands that this pandemic has brought upon us … We’ve tried in good faith to negotiate a fair deal with our landlord for six months to no avail, and unfortunately we may fall victim to what 1 in 5 small businesses have already faced—permanent closure.”
Eater.com noted that American Commercial Equities is owned by billionaire B. Wayne Hughes, founder of Public Storage, and his family. Public Storage is the largest self-storage company in the U.S. Moneyinc.com named him the “richest person in Kentucky” last year.
“We are suffering,” Cohen told Eater.com. “How is it that billionaires can have this kind of hold on our lives?”
According to Eater.com, American Commercial Equities has been deferring Village Pizzeria’s rent this year but expects Cohen to resume normal payments by early 2021 and to pay off some of the deferred rent money over the next two years.
Cohen said his business has been down 60 percent since the pandemic began.
“We really don’t know if this petition will work,” he wrote in his Instagram post. “In the end, our landlord has final say, but we would love and truly appreciate if you could come down and show your support by signing [it].”
The Instagram post has received 939 likes since October 8. Village Pizzeria has not disclosed the number of signatures the petition has garnered so far.