For greater than 20 years, Takara was certainly one of Japantown’s most well-loved locations for home-style Japanese cooking — the form of neighborhood-y place the place older Japanese girls would commonly meet as much as for social lunches, and the place the bento packing containers have been identified to be probably the greatest lunch offers on the town.
Now, all of that’s coming to an finish: This Sunday, Takara will dish out its final takeout field of impeccably crisp tempura and serve its closing generously portioned chirashi bowl. After that, the restaurant will completely shut.
In the end, the restaurant was executed in by a prolonged rent dispute with its landlord, the Beverly Hills-based developer 3D Investments. Together with different tenants on the Japan Middle mall, Takara had been asking for some type of lease reduction to assist mitigate the challenges of the coronavirus disaster — particularly, for some low cost on the lease and customary space upkeep charges that the restaurant owed for the primary three months of the pandemic, when the mall had been closed solely, making it unimaginable for almost all of the outlets and eating places inside to open.
Ultimately, the owner by no means budged on its insistence on accumulating each penny of lease for these months, says Lena Turner, the restaurant’s 91-year-old proprietor. “They wouldn’t negotiate something.”
Turner explains that due to the restaurant’s hidden-away location contained in the mall close to the Resort Kabuki, with no facade accessible from the road, making an attempt to maintain the enterprise on takeout solely throughout the pandemic has been particularly difficult, Most days, Turner says, the restaurant was solely in a position to web $200 or $300 in gross sales (“a joke,” she says) — this whereas Turner was having to pay near $20,000 a month in lease and upkeep charges.
The restaurant opened for outside eating for a few month this previous fall, borrowing a patio from its next-door neighbor, Nari, earlier than town went into lockdown once more, forcing Takara to return to takeout solely — and, in any case, it was too little too late.
Takara’s closure forebodes what activists worry may wind up being a deluge of everlasting closures, as each single tenant within the Japan Middle mall faces the identical dilemma that finally pressured Takara to name it quits. And that may be an unmitigated catastrophe, because the 40 or so storefronts within the Japan Middle’s three buildings represent nearly all of Japantown’s companies. As Diane Matsuda, a employees lawyer with Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, informed Eater SF in October, “If we lose these tenants within the three malls, we lose nearly all of Japantown.”
Turner herself is a beloved determine in Japantown — a fixture in the neighborhood for greater than 4 a long time, going again to when she opened the very first restaurant within the Japan Middle, Sapporo-ya Ramen, in 1976.
Thankfully, for her many mates within the neighborhood, Turner isn’t planning on going anyplace. Even at 91 years outdated, she says she doesn’t really feel able to retire, and in reality, she’s already lined up her subsequent transfer: She purchased Kiss Seafood, a small and comfy omakase joint simply a few blocks away on Laguna Road, taking the enterprise over from her mates. And so, she’s bringing over a few her cooks from Takara, and possibly in a few month’s time, she’ll reopen Kiss for lunchtime takeout with lots of her outdated prospects’ favorites on the menu — the identical tempura, the identical bento packing containers.
Evidently, the choice to shut Takara was bittersweet for Turner, however waiting for her subsequent problem, she’s surprisingly upbeat.
“I’ve had a lot good life since I used to be born, and perhaps that is the primary time God gave me a really laborious time,” Turner says. “That’s truthful — as a result of I had a lot good life.”