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Thursday, Dec 1, 2022
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Plight Lingers From NoHo Fire

Five businesses are struggling to rebuild weeks after a fire devastated a multi-unit retail property in the heart of the North Hollywood Arts District. Several of the affected shops are without fire insurance and, after suffering six-figure losses, see no feasible way to reopen. The blaze originated at Tokyo Delve’s Sushi Bar in the 5200 block of Lankershim Boulevard before spreading to four adjacent storefronts: ice cream shop Chill Rollz, Greenhouse Juice Bar, District Pub NoHo and Joe Coffee, which received varying degrees of damage. Faring the worst is Chill Rollz, which shares its attic space with Tokyo Delve’s Sushi Bar. “We currently don’t have a roof and the fire department punched holes in all of our walls to get to Tokyo Delve’s. All of our equipment has been thrown on the ground, all our refrigerators, everything is ruined,” Chill Rollz’ co-owner Mariam Asrdzhyan told the Business Journal. “We have about two feet of debris from the ceilings and water.” She added: “We only have general liability insurance rather than fire coverage, so we don’t have any way to recover.” Two doors down, coffee shop and CBD bar Joe Coffee wasn’t hit by the flames but damage from the smoke and water has co-owner Ethan Cohen anticipating a three- to four- month-long closure. “It was terrible. I was watching my investment, my future — I had a baby six months ago — watching my livelihood go up in smoke,” Cohen said. “Everything has to come out because of the water damage. All the bars, countertops, furniture, equipment, it’s all pretty much done. We’ll be left with a shell.” Cohen said Joe Coffee is insured but his friend’s Greenhouse Juice Bar is not. “The inside of their shop looks similar to ours, it just looks like smoke and water damage, but if you go in the back the whole roof is gone,” Cohen said. “It would cost them hundreds of thousands to rebuild that space and I don’t believe they’re going to do it.” The Lankershim fire was first reported around 5:30 a.m. on June 10. It was deemed a structural fire after roaring through the property’s attic and causing a significant chunk of the roof to cave in. More than 100 firefighters and five ladder trucks from the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the emergency. It took crews more than two hours to douse the flames. Asrdzhyan said she suspects foul play is at hand. “Nothing adds up as to why (Tokyo Delve’s owners) were there at 5 a.m., when they weren’t even open the night before,” she said. LAFD arson investigators and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have launched an investigation into the fire’s origin, as is protocol for all major emergency fires. SBA emergency loan To help the affected businesses, the Valley Economic Alliance has pulled together emergency Small Business Administration-backed loans between $5,000 and $50,000 that will cover some repair costs for qualifying storefronts. And days after the fire, the five businesses met with City Councilmember Paul Krekorian in his District 2 office. At the meeting were the Economic and Workforce Development Department’s rapid response team and the Employment Development Department, which helped affected employees file for unemployment insurance during the closures. Before any stores can reopen or even begin cleaning up the damage, a Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety appraiser must inspect every electrical circuit in each property to ensure their operational integrity was not damaged by the fire and water (electrical systems for the five businesses were red-tagged and turned off by the L.A. Department of Water and Power). “CD-2 made some phone calls, I’ve made some phone calls, and the mayor’s office has made some phone calls to try to expedite (the process),” said Kenn Philips, president of the Valley Economic Alliance and a commissioner for the City of Los Angeles Workforce Development Board. So far, Joe Coffee and District Pub NoHo have been cleared and their power has been turned back on. However, neither business has water service yet — Joe Coffee’s Cohen said there was a problem with one of the water mainlines that feeds into his unit. While Joe Coffee is insured, its employees now find themselves out of work for the foreseeable future. Neighboring Radius Church is pitching in to help them out. “We have a coffee trailer that we just got for our catering division. Radius cancelled their coffee service for Sunday and they had us come out and sell coffee out of our trailer. Throughout the day my staff got tipped almost $1,700,” said Cohen. “We’ll be bringing the trailer out as much as we can.” No one was hurt by the blaze, but tempers certainly flared — the co-owner of Joe Coffee was transported to a hospital with an injury sustained during a physical altercation with Tokyo Delve’s owner over the cause of the fire. Cohen said his business partner told the arson investigator at the scene that the fire was intentionally started by Tokyo Delve’s owner, leading to a fistfight. Both combatants were detained by the Los Angeles Police Department, and Tokyo Delve’s owner was charged with felony battery. Another person at the scene was arrested for a misdemeanor warrant. No arrests were made in direct relation to the fire.

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