Update: After this article was published we heard from Jeff Kavin, the longtime owner of Greenblatt’s Delicatessen. “The article quotes an employee who said that the real estate will soon be for sale. This is not correct. The building is not for sale… I will be looking for a tenant to take over the Greenblatt’s space.” We encourage you to direct a great deli operator his way.
After a century of serving up wine, lox, and kosher salami, the owners of one of the city’s oldest businesses will hang up their aprons for good tonight. Greenblatt’s Delicatessen, loved by generations of movie stars, night clubbers, and tourists looking for the Sunset Strip closed suddenly on Wednesday night just eight weeks after reopening from a long pandemic closure.
A source told Eater L.A. that the restaurant is closing because of the “difficulty of running the business and finding staff,” and that owner Jeff Kavin wanted to “close gracefully” a month before Rosh Hashanah, as the Jewish high holidays are one of the busiest times at the restaurant.
“Just about anyone you can imagine has wandered in to Greenblatt’s,” Kavin told KPCC in 2014. “You turn around and there’s Paul McCartney buying a sandwich.” Long before delivery apps, Greenblatt’s delivered to reclusive celebrities in the nearby hills or those staying at the Chateau Marmont so they could indulge in deli food without attracting a crowd. “He loves people,” a columnist wrote about Marlon Brando munching a salami sandwich from the deli in 1958. “But he likes to be alone.” More recently, Halle Berry told Esquire it was her favorite deli, and Gourmet critic (and Los Angeles contributor) Colman Andrews proclaimed it home to the “best pastrami in the country.”
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Delivery was likely a big reason the deli moved to the Sunset Strip in the first place. “It was on the main road between the studios and the mansions in Beverly Hills,” notes historian Jim Heimann, whose book Out With the Stars chronicles early celebrity exploits on the nascent Strip. “The Garden of Allah hotel was right across the street, as was Schwab’s Pharmacy. Greenblatt’s is the last block of stuff from the 1930s around there.”
The original Greenblatt’s was a market and delicatessen at 48th and Vermont in South Central Los Angeles that opened in 1920. During the Great Depression the business relocated to what is now the Sunset Car Wash, and then to the corner of Sunset and Laurel around 1939. The corner became the Laugh Factory in 1979 and Greenblatt’s scooted a few doors west to create the late night oak and stained glass classic we know today.
“The delivery business, I can’t get it to add up any way shape or form,” Kavin told KPCC in that same 2014 interview, where he also fretted about a minimum wage that had recently jumped from $8 to $9, and which he feared was heading to $15.25. “It could force us out of business.”
“We’re very sad to hear this news,” says Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy at the Los Angeles Conservancy. “Greenblatt’s is the ultimate survivor legacy business. This speaks to the need for cultivating new stewards that can take over these long-standing operations and carry on the traditions.”
There is a chance Greenblatt’s could continue. Kavin has owned the building since 2017 and could lease it to a new operator. The source cited by Eater L.A. notes that the space will be on the market soon. However, a waiter told Redditor sumdum1234 that the real estate would soon be for sale, which would complicate things enormously. The two-story Spanish Colonial Revival/Churrigueresque building was designed by Morgan, Walls, and Clements, one of the city’s most revered architectural firms who also brought us the El Capitan and Wiltern theaters. The Los Angeles Historic Resources Inventory rated it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, California Register of Historic Places, and local listing as a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
Here’s hoping the landmark building and business both find a way to survive. This great old neighborhood is being wiped out fast.
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