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Koreatown restaurant Here’s Looking at You will close on Sunday, possibly permanently

The bar at Here's Looking at You
A view of the bar at Here’s Looking at You in Koreatown.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Here’s Looking at You, the popular Koreatown restaurant from Jonathan Whitener and Lien Ta, announced Wednesday that it will close for the foreseeable future after this weekend.

“We are closing Here’s Looking at You. For now,” Ta posted on the restaurant’s website and Instagram. “On paper, this is temporary. But, of course, you don’t need us to tell you that life is super-duper uncertain right now.”

For the record:

7:57 AM, Jul. 09, 2020A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the month Here’s Looking at You received a PPP loan. It was May, not April.

Sunday will be the restaurant’s last service, one day before its fourth anniversary.

“I just don’t foresee us reopening during a pandemic,” Ta said when reached by phone. “We’re not able to make enough to cover our costs and support our staff right now, and it doesn’t seem wise to stay open out of pride when it puts others at risk.”

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Ta said she had worked with the building’s landlord, Beer Belly owner Jimmy Han, to pause the restaurant’s lease for the time being.

“He [Han] has been extremely understanding, but there’s only so much he can do,” she said. “If we are able to reopen in three months that would be great, but in the meantime the bills keep piling up and there’s no relief from the government.”

Since opening in 2016, Here’s Looking at You has gained a reputation as one of the most creative and ambitious restaurants in Los Angeles, serving a vibrant polycultural menu that included hot-spiced fish collars and brisket tartare with scallion vinaigrette. It had become a fixture on The Times’ annual 101 Best Restaurants list.

As with countless restaurants across the city, Here’s Looking at You faced severe financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. After initially closing on March 16 due to state health orders, the restaurant reopened on May 28 for takeout service.

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But sales from takeout were not enough to sustain the business, even after the restaurant received a PPP loan in May, Ta said.

“Business had been very slow,” she said, adding that on some nights the restaurant received just two orders. “It’s eerily quiet in Ktown. The burgers and frog’s legs went unordered most nights.”

The duo’s second restaurant, All Day Baby in Silver Lake, will remain open for takeout and delivery. Ta said she is looking to rework the lease agreement at that location.

Before Here’s Looking at You closes on Sunday, it will host a series of one-off events and special menus, including the reappearance of pop-up Tacos Drama on Wednesday, a Vietnamese food and tiki night on Thursday, a greatest-hits night on Friday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. More details can be found on the restaurant’s website.


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