Burgers Faces a Life-Saving Challenge
By Rosanna Mah, The Independent Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Independent
October 6, 2004
Although known for serving the best burgers in town
for over half a century, the classic and popular Irvs
Burgers in West Hollywood might be forced to close down
According to the owners of Irvs Burgers, Encino-based
developer TW Layman Associates plans to demolish their
tiny 1,300-square-foot shop and open a ubiquitous Peets
Coffee and Tea store in its stead.
Owner Sonia Hong, who runs Irvs Burgers with her
mother and older brother, said that she has been unable
to renew her five-year rental lease, except on a month-to
month basis, since it ended on June 30.
According to Hong, the property owner Irving Gendis
also the original Irvs Burgers founder
had delayed signing a long-term contract with
the promise to relocate the burger stand within the
same block after remodeling a neighboring vacant lot.
I always [believed] this guy was going to give
us a lease
if he kicks us out without anything,
we have nothing left, Hong said.
Calls made to Gendis, through his real estate management
company Seltzer Commercial Real Estate, for a comment
were not returned by press time.
According to Susan Healy Keene, city Planning Manager,
an August proposal submitted by the developer calls
for a 1,400-square-foot commercial structure with parking
and an outdoor patio that will house a Peets Coffee
and Tea store.
I dont see the need for yet another coffee
shop around town, said Doug Westen, 47, who has
eaten at Irvs at least twice a week for over 17
years. Granted this place is old, it has a lot
of character to it.
Meanwhile, the Hongs have started a letter-writing campaign
and collected over 1,400 signatures to save Irvs
Burgers from demolition. Hundreds of concerned residents
flooded City Hall with passionate letters with pleas
to save the vintage hamburger establishment, but city
officials say that even their hands are tied.
Mayor John Duran said that there is very little
the city can do except to try to persuade Gendis and
the developer to accommodate Hong and her family.
I go to Irvs, I eat at Irvs, if i
could preserve Irvs I would do it, said
Duran. Were working our hardest to convince
Irv not to destroy his hamburger stand.
Since 1950, local politicians, celebrities and tourists
have patronized the homely burger stand located
at 8289 Santa Monica Blvd. renowned for its inexpensive
cheeseburgers and french fries for 54 years.
While famed Pinks on La Brea Avenue has the monopoly
for best hot dogs, Irvs Burgers is known as the
No. 1 burger joint in Los Angeles.
But in recent years, regulars at Irvs Burgers
have come to love the unpretentious burger joint not
only for its food but especially for the friendly Korean-American
owners and quality service.
No frozen foods here, said Hong, 35, with detectable
pride in her voice.
Meat patties are made from scratch, so are the crisp
French fries that have to be cut and peeled by hand,
People who love the inviting burger joint claim it is
one of the few places where the owners know your name
and care to remember how you like your food cooked.
Who can ever forget Hong, with her bright smile and
cheery voice that greets customers in a sing-song fashion?
Or the personalized plates and to-go bags where special
messages are sometimes written for favorite regulars?
She greets all that passes by and truly serves
her meals with love, wrote West Hollywood resident
Jennifer Broussard in a letter to Councilman Jeffrey
Prang. This community would not be the same without
her and Irvs.
Sonia is the nicest lady in the world, agrees
Josh Kurpies, Prangs deputy.
Then there is the 67-year-old family matriarch whom
everyone affectionately refers to as Mama Soon.
Around five years ago, the Hong family pooled together
$100,000 of their life savings to buy Irvs Burgers,
hoping to turn it into a success something which
every immigrant believes of the American Dream.
For those five years, the new owners of Irvs Burgers
made history once again, turning the street stand into
a popular hangout. Even Michael Berman, owner of O-Bar
restaurant, brought his staff to Irvs to learn
their secret of customer service.
However, those days might soon be over.
Mama Soon who had plans to retire in the near future
now believes her dream of retirement is a remote possibility.
If we move out, we will be back to nothing, where
started 10 to 15 years ago, said Sean Hong.
For the Hong family losing Irvs Burgers is tantamount
to losing their much sought-after American Dream.
For his customers, it would be the end to a great American