Public outcry saves one of L.A.’s top vegan restaurants from brink of closure

A trio of vegan tempura tacos from Nic's on Beverly
After announcing its closure earlier this month, Nic’s on Beverly will remain open, serving fan-favorite items like tempura tacos.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

One of L.A.’s best vegan restaurants was supposed to close last weekend. Due to overwhelming public response and outcry, Nic’s on Beverly will live to bake fluffy Detroit-style pizzas, scramble organic-tofu migas and drizzle truffled cheese fondue onto plant-based burgers another day.

An Instagram post in early June detailed back rent still owed from months of closure — a problem faced by countless restaurants — and difficulty in coming to an agreement with the building’s owner. It named June 18 as its final day of service. Fans began flocking to the Beverly Grove restaurant founded by Nic Adler, a beloved figure in the vegan community and a driving force behind Monty’s Good Burger restaurant chain, as well as events Eat Drink Vegan and the L.A. Vegan Beer and Food Festival.

“It was the most packed the restaurant’s ever been with sad people,” said Adler. “You had this happy-to-be-there, sad-to-leave crowd and a lot of people looking back as they were walking out the door, crying.”


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Some ordered multiple pizzas at a time with the intent to freeze them at home, prolonging their final tastes of the restaurant. “It was a roller coaster for sure, and not an easy one,” Adler said, “but obviously we ended up in a good place.”

Nic’s on Beverly opened in 2019 and is beloved by omnivores and plant-based patrons alike, including notable vegans such as Joaquin Phoenix. For the last four years it has served classic American food with a plant-based bent, whether it be broadly beloved — stacked vegan cheeseburgers, wood-fired pizzas, tempura-cauliflower tacos — or a hyper-local take on L.A. icons, such as the chicken salad from Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois on Main, here done with a yuzu and sesame vinaigrette. Like many during the most fraught months of the pandemic, Nic’s on Beverly closed — and like many, this contributed to the eventual decision to shutter for good.

A long booth in the Nic's on Beverly dining room
Fans booked up the Nic’s dining room and patio when they learned the news of its closure, with some guests ordering food to take home and freeze.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

“Like every other restaurant, we went through nine or 10 months during COVID where we were either not open, open for takeout or open and then closed,” Adler said. “You know, it was just such an unpredictable time.”

After reopening and believing Nic’s was finding its footing, L.A.’s spring months of steady rain and overcast weather proved detrimental to a restaurant with a popular and uncovered back patio. Like many restaurateurs who rely on nearby movie and television studios for regular takeout orders, business lunches and catering, Adler also notes that the WGA strike is affecting revenue: He says he could look at a graph of the restaurant’s finances and chart the correlation.

A few weeks ago the restaurant’s landlord requested Nic’s come current on its months without paying rent while closed due to the pandemic. Adler declined to say exactly how much rent he and his business partners owe but noted it is tens of thousands of dollars — all the more difficult to pay immediately as the restaurant’s COVID-aid loans are also coming due.


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Adler penned a letter to the building’s owner and proposed, “Let the restaurant get healthy” — paying back gradually, over months of continued operation as the sunny weather and business resumes this summer — but it was the public outpouring that really helped turn the tide.

Crying emojis, memories of celebrations and good meals, and comments chiding the landlord filled the restaurant’s June 5 Instagram post announcing the closure. Musician and former Little Pine owner Moby even chimed in, saying, “Thank you!!! Nics was truly wonderful.”

Chefs, fans, entertainers, vegan publications and more all weighed in, wishing Nic’s well and booking out the restaurant for its last two weeks of service.

“I think that feedback, for both of us, was something that was extremely motivating,” Adler said. “The way that the community rallied around Nic’s was a sign of, like, ‘Hey, you have something really special in your building and we’ve got to do something.’”

Late last week, tenant and landlord sat down again to negotiate and this time struck a deal: Nic’s could remain in the space, long-term, and pay back its rent gradually. A number of Nic’s staff left to find other work after announcement of the closure, so the restaurant closed three days this week to train new hires and will reopen Thursday afternoon, resuming its regular hours and daily operations.

“We were thrilled to reach an agreement that works for both parties and ensures that Nic’s can continue to serve the community for many years to come,” David Ravanshenas, a real estate agent speaking on behalf of the building’s ownership, said in an email. “We acknowledge that pandemic related closures put many of our favorite institutions in very difficult situations and will continue to work with tenants to find flexible solutions that keep their doors open.”

An overhead photo of a square, Detroit-style pizza from Nic's on Beverly
A Nic’s signature, an entirely vegan Detroit-style pizza, will be back on the menu starting June 22.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

The arrangement, which includes “a restructuring of old debt” from back rent, allows the team to maintain the restaurant without “looking over [their] shoulders,” Adler said, and will give him the peace of mind to also focus on his next project: Argento, a restaurant that will take cues from iconic California dining styles a la “the Gjelinas and Gjustas of the world,” but entirely vegan and expected to open in Silver Lake’s former Little Pine space in late summer.

Nic’s has been extremely lucky, he says, and he knows that many others haven’t been as fortunate. He says he hopes his closure-that-could-have-been inspires landlords and restaurateurs to reach mutually beneficial agreements in the face of pandemic fallout, inflation and myriad other factors that have made operating a small business feel impossible to navigate, and that it reminds patrons that in order for restaurants to exist, they have to be frequented.

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“With all restaurants, a like or a comment [on social media], although extremely powerful, people need to go in and support those restaurants,” he said.

Adler concedes times are tough for patrons as well as restaurateurs but says that even telling a friend who’s visiting from out of town that Nic’s or another restaurant is worth dining in can help, or writing positive reviews online.

“We have to be active and we have to support the things we love or they’ll go away,” Adler said. “That goes for so many restaurants in L.A. I just hope people go out and support their favorite restaurant, whether that’s Nic’s or whatever other restaurant that might be.”