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Is the L.A. Hamburger Stand Cooked?

November 02, 2004|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

A framed "certificate of commendation" from West Hollywood is placed on the counter next to the order window. City Hall is across the street, and municipal officials are among the regulars.

The Hongs acquired the business near the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Sweetzer Avenue in 2000 for about $100,000. They rent the site for $2,000 a month under a five-year lease that expired in June. Landowner Irv Gendis has owned the burger stand site and an adjacent parcel that once housed an automotive repair shop since 1970.

Locals say the hamburger stand was known as Queenies' Burgers and then Joe's Burgers before Gendis purchased it and named it after himself.

"Everything's fresh; nothing is frozen. We sell hamburgers 12 hours a day," said Sonia Hong, of Northridge.

Hong said she and her family were initially told that a long-term lease would be available. But 18 months ago, Gendis leased the burger stand site and the adjoining land to investor and property manager Gregg Seltzer in a 30-year deal.

Seltzer, of Santa Monica, is paying Gendis $5,000 a month for both pieces of land. He continues to rent the stand to the Hongs for $2,000 on a month-by-month basis.

Seltzer said he has eaten at Irv's Burgers since the 1970s and is a fan of the Hongs. But economics are forcing the redevelopment of the combined parcels.

He dropped the idea of retaining the hamburger stand and restoring a small business, such as an automotive repair shop, to the vacant lot after calculating that he would have to almost double Hong's rent.

The planned Peet's Coffee & Tea would consist of a small retail store with a patio for coffee sipping in the front and a parking lot in the back.

"If there was a way to put Peet's on there and keep Irv's, I'd be first in line," Seltzer said.

Seltzer attended last Thursday night's meeting along with Peter Mehrberg, Peet's lawyer. It was held at the home of Tripp, one of the main organizers of the Burger Brigade, who lives a block from the stand.

Tripp said he and others are hopeful that a compromise can be reached to keep the burger stand where it's been since 1950.

"The Hongs are an extended family to so many of us."

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