Henry's Tacos, after a year of landlord disputes and attempts to sell the family-owned business, will shutter after 9 p.m. Saturday, according to Janis Hood, whose family started the business in 1961.
"It will be a sad day, but this is it," Hood said in an exclusive interview with Studio City Patch near the close of business on Friday evening. "It just didn't work out for us to stay at this location. We will stay open on Saturday until 9 o'clock, or until our food runs out."
A deal was being ironed out this week between the property owner, Mehran Ebrahimpour of Beverly Hills, and Matt Pyken of Studio City, who wanted to buy the business from Hood. They got a 20-year lease agreement from the landlord, but it forced the potential buyers to offer $50,000 less to Hood for the sale of the business, because of the higher rent.
"Then, I made a commitment to sell the business to my head chef who has worked here for 21 years," Hood said. "If I'm going to take that much of a hit in selling the business, I figured it should at least be with someone I know and have worked with all this time."
Chef Omar Vega said he will team up with his brother Gilberto Vega to find a new location for Henry's and move the iconic sign and the simple menu to another spot.
"I am honored to take over this business," said Vega, who plans to keep the menu and name of the vintage business.
Although Hood and her family will no longer be involved in the business located at Moorpark Street and Tujunga Avenue, Hood said she planned to keep the "gringo taco stand" in Studio City somewhere, and she will participate in relocating it.
Pyken, who ran unsuccessfully for Studio City Neighborhood Council, said he was surprised that Hood backed out of the deal for the restaurant.
"I'm scratching my head, frankly," Pyken said. "I thought we could work out something. We gave Janis everything she asked for."
He and Steve Rose were going to invest in keeping Henry's at its current location. He said after she turned down the lower offer, they worked out a deal for the original offer, but by then, Hood made a commitment to Vega.
"I did it because we live here for six years and I want to take my daughter to a place that is iconic and I had the means to help out," Pyken said, "but Janis made her decision."
City Councilman Paul Krekorian was quietly involved in bringing all the parties to the table, according to Pyken. Hood criticized Krekorian for stalling on a decision to declare the site a historic landmark when it turned half a century old. (See Krekorian's letter by clicking here.)
"The councilman himself was hoping to broker a deal with us, and he has been excoriated for this because the public seems to think he created some of the problem," Pyken said. "Frankly, with the deal we had in place, it would have made no difference whether the building was declared historic or not. We wanted to keep the staff as it was, we weren't going to change the menu or a napkin otherwise."
Pyken, who owns a house in the Fryman Canyon area, said he would not be involved in any other business at the location.
The iconic sign will be preserved by local historians until a new site is located. The sign was designed by Studio City artist Dave Margolin, who still resides locally.
"The only other thing I want to keep from the building are the menu boards because the originals from 1961 are behind them," Hood said.
The spurt of business that erupted from celebrities such as Elijah Wood and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, helped bring all the parties to negotiate a deal that kept Henry's running through the holidays. The troubles began last year when the landlord resisted Hood's attempt to get the building to be deemed a historic landmark.
"I feel very comfortable in allowing Omar to carry on this family tradition," Hood said. "But I think that the community that has supported us so much these past few weeks will find us no matter where it relocates. But anyway, it will still be a sad day."
Pyken said, "I am sad about Henry's too, and I feel like my time has been wasted."
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