Students find nearby restaurants empty

Chronicle Staff

The clock strikes noon. Customers begin to stream into restaurants along Ventura Boulevard as the lunch rush begins. Tables fill with coworkers taking a breather alongside Harvard-Westlake seniors taking advantage of their off-campus privileges.

But the restaurants emptied on Nov. 5, when the Writers Guild of America strike brought much of Hollywood to a halt. According to the guild, roughly 12,000 writers put down their pencils and began picketing studio headquarters. Their decreased spending leaves restaurant tables vacant through the lunchtime hours and more dependent on students for revenue.

Even before the strike, restaurant business in the southeast San Fernando Valley dropped 30 percent as entertainment industry workers began to spend less, as chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation Jack Kyser told the New York Times. Now the strike has been going for five weeks and last Friday, negotiations between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke down, meaning the strike is unlikely to end in the immediate future.

The Studio City restaurant Belwood Bakery has lost about 30 percent of business this November compared to last year, owner Michael Tiuong estimated.

“The strike has slowed down our business for sure,” Tioung said. Tioung estimated that he loses 20 customers a day because of decreased lunch revenues.

Although few restaurants directly benefit from the strike, some can maintain their lunch business by taking advantage of the proximity of picketing strikers. Every weekday writers picket outside the CBS Studio Center on Radford Avenue in Studio City, and they frequently visit the Artisan Cheese Gallery, a restaurant and store on Laurel Canyon only half a block away from the CBS studio.

“Our lunch business has been fine,” Melody Dosch said, owner of the Artisan Cheese Gallery. “The retail side of our business, however, has suffered a lot.”

The Artisan Cheese Gallery is offering members of the Writers Guild a 10 percent discount to express their support for the writers. Dosch believes the discount has helped the restaurant sustain its business, especially because a guild blog mentioned the restaurant.

Although the strike has hurt the restaurant industry as a whole, some restaurants have been benefitting from publicity. Art’s Delicatessen, located on Ventura Boulevard a few blocks west of the CBS studio, has gotten publicity in recent weeks.

“Art’s Deli has done really well because of the strike,” Dosch said. “They’ve gotten a lot of positive press.”

Still, the deli is not immune from the damage the strike is wreaking on the Los Angeles restaurant industry. Owner Harold Ginsburg estimates that the restaurant loses $500-700 a day from lost lunch revenues.

“If they wrap things up by January, it really should be okay, but if they stay on strike through the end of June, it could be a very serious impact on our business,” Ginsburg said.