94-Year-Old California Restaurant Closing After Bankruptcy

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: May 24, 2024

La Golondrina Cafe, a beloved eatery on Olvera Street, has been serving patrons since 1930. Known for its delicious flour tortillas and mariachi performances, the cafe became a cultural landmark in Los Angeles.

Sadly, this historic restaurant is now facing permanent closure after declaring bankruptcy, marking the end of an era for its loyal patrons.

New Ownership, Old Problems

In 2022, David Gomez and his mother Bertha Gomez bought La Golondrina Cafe from the Bonzo family.

A handshake between two people, symbolizing compromise or agreement.

Source: Chris Liverani/Unsplash

Excitement soon turned to frustration as they encountered numerous issues, including delays in the sale approval process and significant plumbing problems that kept the restaurant closed. These initial hurdles set the stage for a series of ongoing challenges.

Legal Battles Begin

The Gomez family filed a lawsuit in May against the city of Los Angeles, Councilmember Kevin de León, and the UNITE HERE Local 11 union.

Person filling out paperwork for a lawsuit with a silver pen

Source: iStock

They claimed that these parties interfered with the sale and were responsible for the costly repairs needed to reopen the cafe. The lawsuit aimed to hold the city accountable for repair work at the historic site.

Councilmember Lawsuit Dropped

The Gomez family eventually dropped their lawsuit against Councilmember de León after he filed a countersuit.

A wooden gavel resting on its sound block beside a document titled 'LAWSUIT' with a pen to its right side on a wooden surface

Source: wirestock/freepik

According to Gomez, they dismissed de León for procedural reasons. Despite this, their legal battles continued with other parties involved, adding to the financial and emotional strain on the family.

Plumbing Issues Persist

La Golondrina Cafe is located in the Pelanconi House, Los Angeles’ oldest brick building. The building’s century-old cast iron pipes required repairs estimated at $90,000.

A silver tap with running water coming out of it. The spray is coming off the water.

Source: Imani/Unsplash

Despite submitting multiple work estimates and requests for inspection reports, the city and the commission overseeing Olvera Street did not address the plumbing issues, leaving the restaurant unable to reopen.

Eviction Looms

With unresolved plumbing problems and ongoing rent disputes, the El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historical Monument Authority voted on September 28 to evict the Gomez family.

Close-up photograph of an old wooden door with an yellow eviction notice

Source: Reddit

They argued they deserved rent abatement due to the city’s failure to repair the plumbing, but the commission disagreed, adding further obstacles to their efforts to reopen the cafe.


Community Impact

The closure of La Golondrina Cafe has created a “ghost town” feeling on Olvera Street. David Gomez explained that the restaurant brought in a clientele with more spending power, benefiting all the vendors in the area.

View of shoppers on Olvera Street

Source: NewtonCourt/Wikimedia Commons

The community now feels the absence of this historic landmark, and local businesses are suffering as a result.


Financial Strain and Bankruptcy

The financial burden of legal battles and repair costs became too much for the Gomez family. The restaurant announced its bankruptcy and decision not to reopen, expressing their frustration with the city’s lack of support and the political hurdles they faced.

A row of $100 bills representing a significant amount of money.

Source: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

This marked a heartbreaking end to their dreams of reviving the historic eatery.


Memories and Legacy

La Golondrina Cafe holds a special place in the hearts of many Angelenos. From 21st birthday celebrations to wedding receptions, the restaurant has been part of countless cherished memories.

Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron celebrates Cinco de Mayo with Consuelo de Bonzo and Mexican American dancers on Olvera street. *Photographed left to right are: Velia Valle, Salvadas Dukhart, Mayor Bowron, and Consuelo de Bonzo.

Source: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons

David Gomez shared his disappointment, emphasizing the cultural and emotional significance of the cafe for many families who have long-standing ties to the place.


Quotes from the Owners

David Gomez shared his disappointment, saying, “It definitely needs to be back open and open soon. It’s already been way too long.”

A shot of the LA skyline on a nice day. Multiple palm trees take up the view of the foreground

Source: shalunts/Getty Images

Their Instagram post added, “We are truly sorry we did everything in our power. The whole thing has been very discouraging and eye-opening to how the political system works in LA.” These words reflect their deep sense of loss and frustration.


Similar Struggles on Olvera Street

The Gomez family’s struggle is not unique. The operator of “El Burrito y La Carreta,” a donkey stand with over 50 years of history on Olvera Street, is also facing eviction.

View of shops and shoppers on Olvera Street

Source: Visitor7/Wikimedia Commons

This highlights broader issues of tenant instability and the challenges of maintaining historic businesses, showing that the problem extends beyond just one restaurant.


Looking Forward

While La Golondrina Cafe’s closure marks the end of an era, it also raises important questions about the support systems for small businesses in historic areas.

View of shops and shoppers on Olvera Street

Source: Visitor7/Wikimedia Commons

The Gomez family’s fight sheds light on the need for better city support to preserve the cultural and historical fabric of places like Olvera Street. The community hopes for solutions that protect these cherished landmarks.


View of shops and shoppers on Olvera Street

Source: Visitor7/Wikimedia Commons