Wednesday early in the morning, long before the doors opened for Glassell Park’s newest restaurantthe Dunsmoor team arrived with bold red and white lettering sprayed over the windows.
“Gentrification is genocide,” it read in all caps and in both Spanish and English, each labeled on one side of the corner building, according to the owners.
It was just the beginning. The day would culminate in a protest that saw handmade signs reading, “GENTRIFIERS ARE ON THE MENU TONIGHT!” pressed against the windows of the restaurant as customers dined inside. Another neon sign complained about the restaurant’s prices: “F— YOUR $23 LENTILS!!!”
Former Hatchet Hall chef Brian Dunsmoor’s new restaurant opened Wednesday night in a historic Latino neighborhood that features a rise in real estate values and demographic changes† Coupled with its proximity to Highland Park, Glassell Park is one of a number of neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area that has been central to the city’s ongoing discussion of gentrification and displacement.
“Last night we did almost 100 covers [served guests], and I touched every table,” restaurant partner Taylor Parsons told The Times on Thursday morning. “I’d say 50% came from around like walking here, and they were all really excited. Some of them got into verbal altercations with the protesters outside, they went in or out, and some of them walked up to them when they saw the protest taking place.
“It’s a range of reactions. I think there’s concern and there’s excitement too.”
Before the protest there was tagging. Parsons said the restaurant’s security cameras captured the vandalism at 4:32 a.m. Wednesday. Based on the written message, placement, handwriting, and paint, the restaurant’s team believed they were done by the person or people who tagged the restaurant in January.
Parsons has lived in the area for nearly ten years and lives about five minutes from the restaurant and rushed into the space. Graffiti film already applied to the windows allowed the team to quickly remove the tags, and Parsons said they would file a police report on Thursday.
On Tuesday, a new Instagram account called @dunsmoorisdone posted a joint call to action with Street Watch LA, a community-based advocacy group founded by the LA branch of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Los Angeles Community Action Network.
The Instagram post called on protesters to come to Dunsmoor, which it claimed will “bring gentrifiers willing to pay $200 a diner from across the county for this neighborhood that isn’t fully gentrified.”
“The players involved have already helped other LA neighborhoods further improve their restaurants, including Culver City, Mar Vista and Venice, and now they have their speculative sights turned east and beyond,” the post added. “This restaurant group WILL lead to more displacement – and homelessness – unless they are stopped. Please come and help us send a clear message that not only have these people chosen the wrong neighborhood – but that gentrification pioneers can no longer count on them to do it.” have the right to settle and cause displacement – and homelessness – wherever they please. Help us make it happen that Dunsmoor is READY.”
Representatives from the @dunsmoorisdone Instagram account, which had 105 followers on Friday, and Street Watch LA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The LA Tenants’ Uniona member-funded group fighting for affordable housing and universal rent control said some members were at the protest.
“The opening of restaurants like Dunsmoor in Glassell Park means more intense harassment targeting the most vulnerable members of our community, to remove them and replace them with new tenants who can afford the market rent,” a group spokesperson said Friday via e-mail. -mail. “Clinching your wine glass at a $200 dinner while grandparents and children protest outside, you are refusing to understand your role in this harassment, displacement and violence.”
Those who don’t understand why people protested don’t know about the threats, the lies, the intimidation of keys and the groundless eviction suits that developers use to evict workers from their homes, the spokesman said.
The Glassell Park Neighborhood Council and the office of Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents Glassell Park, did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
Parsons said about 60 protesters arrived Wednesday and stood outside the restaurant, which occupies a building that has been vacant for years (decades, according to the landlord, although the space had reportedly been used for house shows). A neighbor who saw a Facebook discussion post about a protest in Dunsmoor on opening night warned restaurant staff.
From about 5 to 10 p.m., protesters held signs exclaiming messages such as “Save the hood! We say NO to aristocratic restaurants!” Some walked up and down Eagle Rock Boulevard to the neighboring cocktail bar, the Grant, a similarly upscale establishment, where a physical altercation took place late Wednesday.
It was about a woman who had been [dining] in Dunsmoor and walked out onto the street after dinner,” Grant owner Michael Lippman said in a statement to The Times. “Nothing happened within the Grant (and none of our employees were involved). I am a longtime resident of Glassell Park myself and our neighborhood bar has been open for a little less than a year now and we have never had any problems or seen any protest.”
Parsons cites the size of the restaurant, publicity and fame of the chef as factors that caught the protesters’ attention. On Wednesday, a number of Dunsmoor diners asked for their meals to be packed, and some canceled their reservations entirely, Parsons said.
“The people who were here took it on the chin,” he said. “I was proud of the staff; they did a great job. Guests were very understanding and we tried to provide the most warm and welcoming service under the circumstances. The first concern in that situation is always the safety of your guests and staff.”
The intent of the protest, as explained in @dunsmoorisdone’s only Instagram post from Friday, is for the restaurant to close. Parsons said that’s not going to happen. However, the restaurant’s structure takes into account the cost to diners and the neighborhood, he said, limiting entrees to less than $40 and limiting wine marks below industry standards.
The restaurant serves seafood, meat, and vegetables prepared using a number of methods and techniques common in early American history, such as canning and roasting. Those $23 lentils, for example, contain smoked mushrooms, red onion sauce, and sour cream, while the $11 cornbread — a signature from Dunsmoor’s Hatchet Hall days — uses cultured butter, green chiles, white cheddar, and honey.
The team discusses awards every day, Parsons said, admitting he doesn’t have all the answers.
“We’re just trying to bring a great little restaurant to this neighborhood and be good neighbors and community members and custodians of our space, our street,” Parsons said. “We all live here, close by. We are not trying to disrupt anyone’s livelihoods or lives.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†