Irv’s Burgers, the embattled West Hollywood hamburger stand owned by the Hong family, has been served a summons to appear in court by its property owner, who is accusing the family of doing business on the property beyond a 30-day eviction notice. The summons, filed on July 1 in Los Angeles Superior Court and served Monday night, gives the Hongs five days to respond, or they may lose the case.
Irv’s owner Sonia Hong, who works with her brother and mother behind the counter, said the summons issued by Standard Oil Investment Management came as a shock to the family, which has invested its life’s savings in the business it purchased in 1999. The stand, notable for being one of the last of its kind along Historic Route 66, has been in business for 63 years and has become a neighborhood favorite.
“We have to act fast or else we lose everything,” said Sonia Hong, who added that they are “very close” to finding a lawyer.
Standard Oil is requesting attorney fees and rent payment due since June 22.
A 30-day eviction notice was served in person to the Hongs on May 22. Despite the eviction notice, the Hongs say they were led to believe they had “as much time as they needed” to find another location to operate their business, and that Steven Bohbot, vice president at Standard Oil, has been giving them conflicting information.
Standard Oil owns both the Irv’s space and a neighboring space, where it is currently constructing a cafe called “Beach Nation.” Both spaces are part of the same property. Due to the new construction, Irv’s must be brought up to current West Hollywood code standards. That means, Irv’s roof and patio must be renovated.
On June 3, about two weeks after the eviction notice was served, Sonia Hong says that Bohbot called to give the family two options: if they wanted to stay, they would need to pay $7,000 per month (the previous rent was $4,250) and would need to make repairs to the structure to bring it up to city code requirements; if they agreed to leave the property, they would be paid $51,000 (12 months of rent).
According to Hong, if the family chose to stay, they would also have to pay for rent while the stand was closed for improvements.
Hong says, in her opinion, they were really given “no option.” West Hollywood Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, a longtime supporter of the stand, has said the that the owner is using “constructive eviction” to remove the Hongs.
“You’re not evicted, but I’m going to double your rent and make you pay for the roof and all these other things,” said Prang. “It’s a historic business and it really should be the building owner’s responsibility,” Prang said.
On June 13, Hong said she reluctantly accepted the deal over the phone. Subsequent media reports, she says, have quoted Bohbot, through a third party, as saying the Hongs have accepted “a very good deal.”
“We feel it’s not a very good offer,” said Sonia.
Furthermore, there is confusion over what the Hongs have exactly agreed to. They say they have signed no papers.
On July 1, according to Sonia Hong, Bohbot told the family he was preparing the necessary paperwork for them to sell their business to Standard Oil for $51,000.
The Hongs were shocked to hear they might be selling away their business. According to Hong, they believed they were only being offered $51,000 to leave the property.
Hong points out that the summons accusing the family of unlawfully remaining on the property was also filed on July 1.
A hearing has been set on Dec. 30 at the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Santa Monica courthouse.