The news earlier this year of a new prospective owner with intentions to redevelop the property that houses Eastside Café caught the collective by surprise. “The building — and its seven units — had been for sale for two years now and the starting price was $1.2 million and he knew we were interested,” Flores says. Eastside Café’s core members got together and strategized how to raise the money over time to make an offer. They formed a co-op, talked to local investors who shared their vision and brainstormed ways of buying the property.
“Then we found out our landlord sold it without telling us, ” Flores says. “We told him, ‘We don’t need any gentrifiers here! We don’t need that shit and you are that! You are going to try and destroy us.’”
The landlord declined L.A. Weekly's request for comment.
Flores says that once their landlord found out about the unrest, he gave them 10 days to raise funds and make a “bona fide offer.”
According to Flores, if the landlord liked their offer, the new buyer would back out of his initial offer. (The core Eastside Cafe members say they got him saying this on camera.) If Eastside Café couldn't provide an acceptable offer, the new landlord asked for everyone to let him continue the selling process while remaining silent and without complicity, Flores says.
“We all went into emergency mode that day,” says Natividad Carrera, a member of Eastside Café’s son jarocho collective who has been helping in their campaign to save the space. He became involved with the space after he sought out Flores to pursue his passion in playing son jarocho music, the lively music from the Mexican state of Veracruz. After graduating from the beginner classes offered at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural in Sylmar, he couldn’t find any intermediate classes until he heard about Eastside Café’s classes every Friday night.
“We got a lot of help from local real estate people and took a crash course on the process of buying a property,” he says. That is when they learned that they didn’t necessarily have to provide a down payment in full but just enough to start their escrow, he says.
They managed to raise $180,000 from community members, local restaurants and investors during those crucial 10 days. Now they had effectively raised enough funds to provide a worthwhile offer.
They say the other buyer kept his promise and backed out.