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Hollywood Reaches Out to Save Henry's Tacos, an L.A. Institution [UPDATED]

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Hollywood is up in arms about the closing of Henry's Tacos in North Hollywood. Everyone from Elijah Wood to Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul are attempting to spread the word in hopes of saving the place, which has been around for 51 years. The stand will shutter at the end of the month due to a steep rent increase by the landlord.

Owner Jannis Hood posted the following statement in Henry's Taco's Facebook page regarding the closure:

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"I am very sorry to have to announce to everyone that it looks like Henry's will be closing for good on December 31. As some of you know, Henry's is just too much for me as a single, childless woman approaching 60 with no family within 1700 miles. I have had several prospective buyers committed to continuing the tradition, but all have been turned down by the landlord. The current prospective buyers have agreed to all the landlord's terms, but he has ceased communicating with them. Therefore, I have given my notice and it has been accepted by the landlord. I believe this all goes back to my unwittingly angering the landlord by nominating Henry's for Historic Cultural Monument status. As Councilmember Krekorian put a stop to that, the landlord may want to bulldoze Henry's and build something else. I am hoping to get some media coverage in the next few days. Needless to say I am heartsick that after 51 years, Henry's may end for no good reason. Thanks to you all for your support."

As mentioned by Hood in her post, the city's Cultural Heritage Commission voted 5-0 last year to designate the Henry's building as a historic-cultural monument, but the designation was never acted upon by the City Council. It remains to be seen if they can raise the funds to stay open at their current location.

UPDATE 3:15 PM: Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian has issued the following letter regarding Henry's Tacos:

Dear Friend,
Like many of my constituents, I was saddened to learn this past weekend that the owner of Henry’s Tacos in Studio City has made the decision to close the business at the end of this month. If true, it would be a loss for our community and another example of unwelcome change that results in iconic businesses closing their doors to the detriment of the character of our neighborhoods and our city. Last year, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted to include the Henry’s Tacos building in its list of Historic-Cultural Monuments. That was a decision with which I agreed, because I strongly believe this city needs to do more to retain its links to the past and its unique flavor and character. Unfortunately, there was nothing my office nor the City could do to compel a business owner and a property owner to agree on terms of a lease, except urging them both to the table - which is exactly what my office did. I’m disappointed and saddened that the two commercial parties involved could not reach an agreement that would serve both their interests and the community’s.

In February, the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (“PLUM”) Committee decided to postpone consideration of the status of Henry’s designation as a cultural monument to give the business owner and the property owner more time to work together toward renewal of their lease, which had already expired in December 2011. My office was never notified that the two parties apparently had a breakdown in negotiations, and I
learned about that fact, along with the rest of the public, when the owner announced on Facebook her intention to close the business. The last time either the business owner or the property owner had any contact with my office was the date of the PLUM meeting, back in February, and neither have ever requested any assistance from my office in connection with these negotiations. In any event, it should be clearly understood that any decision about the historical status of the Henry’s Tacos site has nothing to do with whether or not Henry’s Tacos stays in business.

I have always believed it would be in the community’s best interests for the business owner and property owner to negotiate an agreement, in what is a private business matter and not a government decision, in order to allow Henry’s Tacos to continue operating. However, if those efforts fail, which it sounds like they may have, and either the private business owner or private property owner decide not to renew their lease, there is simply nothing the City can do to compel them to continue operations. The challenge that Henry’s apparently has faced for nearly a year is due to a private business relationship. While I have always been supportive of a historical designation for the building, the passionate effort by many in our community to save Henry’s continues to be best directed to the business owner and the property owner, for it is they alone who will decide whether Henry’s will continue in business and remain a valued community institution.

I also feel that I must make clear that suggestions by some that I have “other plans” for the property are simply false. As of today, to my knowledge, the property owner has not applied for any change of use for the property, or proposed any development plans, or sought any change in entitlements, or otherwise taken any action at all that indicates that the Henry’s Tacos building is facing destruction or even modification. If the property owner has any intention to change Henry’s whatsoever, he has not shared them with my office. If the choice were up to me, my preference would be to keep a vibrant and successful Henry’s in operation, as is.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond.

Very truly yours,
PAUL KREKORIAN
Councilmember, Second District

UPDATE: A "Save Henry's Tacos" petition has been launched on Change.org. From the petition:
It is more than just a taco stand or business to many of us who grew up in the neighborhood. Henry's is an important part of our collective history that not only has sentimental value, but cultural and historical significance as well. Henry's Tacos classic 1960's building is intact and virtually unchanged and is architecturally significant with its classic Googie signage.