By Ian Dean
The Neo-Venetians are at it again. Barely a month has passed since one Venice institution (Glencrest BBQ) has been forced to close due to gentrification, another is in potential jeopardy.
This time it’s your local hair parlor, Paper Scissors Rock. Potentially at the hands of the not so “Local Hangout since 2013,” The Barnyard.
The location that was formally “Benice,” and before that “The Ho,t” and many other institutions. None of the occupants of 1715 Pacific Avenue have been so brazen or greedy as to try and usurp the next door neighbors at 1711 Pacific Avenue. Until now….
Paper Scissors Rock is a slammin’ little building, covered in graffiti and bright blue paint. It lives up to its distinct name, both in practice and in spirit. When you walk inside, you can clearly see and feel the individuality and unique draw, compared to any other parlor. That individuality is included in the stylists that the “Floyd’s Barbershop” chains could only pretend to be. The place clearly sends a message to any who pass its threshold that this is no frou frou salon.
Opened in 1986 by 5 friends, who migrated to Venice from a salon in Santa Monica when they wanted to try something new. They set up shop on Pacific, and have been rocking the shears and buzzers ever since.
The shop and its inhabitants have seen three owners of the property come and go over the years, as land tends to swap hands. It was never was a problem, since the owners always tended to be fair,as long as the rent was paid. Now it would seem the best 2 out of 3 is just not enough.
It all started on March 19th, when one of the original 5 stylists, Masao Miyashiro, was sent a link from an acquaintance to a news item in a blog. It appeared on LA.Eater.com, titled “Paper Scissors Rock Could Fold For New Venice Restaurant.” The blog stated how the location property of 1715 Pacific (The Barnyard) had applied for a liquor license. The only problem is they applied for the license under the address 1711 Pacific, which is Paper Scissors Rock.
Interestingly enough, the same day this link was emailed to Miyashiro, a letter of notice was delivered to his home in the nearby apartments, from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It stated that an application had been made for a liquor license for 1711 Pacific Ave, but the notice was dated March 13th.
Let’s not jump the gun just yet, and make assumptions. The Barnyard as a whole does not own the property it rests on, and it does not own the property of 1711. Itt could be just a mistake on the LAeater’s part, however one of the co-owners of The Barnyard restaurant DOES own both properties.
The owner of both properties in which Paper Scissors Rock and The Barnyard stand, according to the public records I obtained from the County Assessor Office, is Jose Bunge. However, the application of the said liquor license, according to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, was filled out by two companies, under the names CFJ, LLC and HHHC95, LLC. Both offered very little information as to WHO exactly they were with some online fact checking.
I spoke to Deb Kennedy, the owner of Paper Scissors Rock, and the lessee of the space in question. She informed me the very day Miyashiro received the posted notice on his door, he printed a copy of the LAeater column to show her. The owner (Bunge) walked in to the shop, went straight to Deb and said, “I filed for a liquor license, what do you think?” Kennedy’s reply? “Yeah, we heard you want to build a restaurant,” as she turned to her supply box and and pulled out the printed copy of the online blog. Bunge immediately grew irate, and was taken aback. “Who wrote this?,” Bunge demanded. “It’s not true, that’s not what’s going on,” he insisted.
I asked Kennedy, “If that’s not what’s going on, then what IS going on? Why would he be applying for a liquor license for a hair salon?” “That’s what I was wondering myself,” said Kennedy. “But he then went on to say how he would move me to one of his other spots, and he even showed me one, but it really was not to my liking. It had no parking, and we need space for our clients’ cars.”
Another interesting fact, aside from not informing Kennedy till after filling out the application, was the actual LACK of the paperwork for the Liquor License that was legally supposed to be properly displayed.
According to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, a license that has been applied for must have a sign of notification placed in full view to the public on the window of the property in question. This notice was not put up at all for over a month, and when it finally was put up, it wasn’t the legitimate paperwork required by law, nor was it on the right window (it was posted on the door to 1711 1/2, the apartments just above Paper Scissors Rock). The “notice” was just two separate pieces of printer paper scribbled in squarish letters with blue sharpie, that states on the first sheet ” POSTED ABC” and below it on the other sheet “LIQUOR LICENSE.”
The only official paperwork posted was not for the liquor license at all, but for a notice informing filming would taking place. Finally weeks after the fact, with phone calls complaining to Stacy Williams, the Licensing Representative for the Department of the ABC, a proper notice has been posted, but there is no date specified as to when the application was filled out, and certain sections are blacked out with sharpie, not indicating the proper fields.
Kennedy has a year lease left, and does not want to make waves to anger her landlord, or do anything to jeopardize her location while she still has it, but if one were to take a step back and look at the situation from a distance, this truly seems like Bunge is manipulating the situation, tweaking the laws regarding protocol to get what he wants.
When I brought up to Kennedy how this seemed very backhanded, and asked how it made her feel, she stated, “It’s his property, and I kind of understand why he is being sneaky about it, as he probably does not want to lose revenue till he is ready to set up his new project, but he did something similar to Benice next door, when he applied for a liquor license under the pretenses of it being for the benefit of Benice. But when the license went through, he gave the owner of Benice the boot and then opened up The Barnyard. I don’t think I have much time left here.”
This is one example of how this particular establishment is willing to mistreat its business neighbors, but what about its employees? Is there any difference in how they treat the locals that don’t have something The Barnyard wants, or stands in it’s way? Tamra Hernandez, a life long Venice resident, with a more than qualified resume of restaurant experience, was recently hired – and subsequently fired – by The Barnyard as a server. Hernandez is also putting herself through school, and her hours for class are a bit demanding. When interviewed for the position, Hernandez informed her potential employer about her class related schedule requirements. She had class till 4:00 pm, which means she could not be at the restaurant any earlier then 4:45pm. The manager of The Barnyard, Celia Barber (wife to the Head Chef, Jesse Barber) had informed Hernandez that it would not be an issue, as the Barnyard does not open till 5:00pm.
The first day on the clock, however, Mrs. Barber decided Hernandez would do better as a hostess than as a waitress, since she was not familiar with the selections of wine that could be paired with the food. This normally would not be too big of a problem, except for the fact that the hostess needs to be at the restaurant before opening to answer calls and take reservations. This meant Hernandez would be late to work every single day due to her school schedule. Two days in to her new position as a hostess rather than a server, Barber then demanded that Hernandez not only hostess, but bus tables, run food for other servers, and serve tables (the very task she had originally been hired to do but was then demoted due to “lack of wine knowledge”). Then, on top of it all, denied her any of the tips that were either put directly into her hand, earned from customers she had personally catered to. After two weeks of being continuously “late to work” due to the classes, Barber pulled Hernandez aside and shrewdly said to her, “I just don’t think you are a right fit here.”
On paper, the reason Hernandez was let go was because she was late for work, even though her boss knew she had class till 4:00pm, and could not be at the restaurant till 4:45pm. From Hernandez’s perspective, it had nothing to do with being late. In her mind, they clearly wanted a certain kind of person, both in their employment, and in their restaurant as customers. Tamra, nor anyone she knew, did not fit the bill.
“What confuses me is this place strives to be local and about the neighborhood, and they treated me like I didn’t belong,” said Hernandez. “When friends of mine, people I grew up with and I’ve known my whole life, people from the neighborhood who saw me through the window hosting, they would stop by to say hello, and ask me about the food. Each time someone I knew came by, I introduced them to Celia and told her who they were and what they did, and she would dismiss them as unimportant simply by the way they looked. So much for a local hangout, when you won’t even acknowledge the locals.”
I am not sure how many of you have graced the website for The Barnyard’s “About” section, but it has since been greatly altered to only showcase the Head Chef and Manager’s credentials, but that is not what it originally portrayed. I am willing to bet someone pointed out how stuck up they sounded with the original content, and that’s what prompted the change. When I first looked at the website, I found it difficult amid the hypocrisy and name dropping to not rip it apart word for word A bigger person would be above doing such a thing …. unfortunately for The Barnyard, I am not that person.
The restaurant’s now changed self defining review of how local restaurants should be run around the neighborhood was nothing short of hilarious, especially when they openly criticized the other restaurants on Abbot Kinney, when they are a very similar establishment. With its smug hipster aura, it’s additionally ironic seeing how Jessie Barber worked at The Tasting Kitchen, which is located precisely on Abbot Kinney.
The website verbally pumped itself up about the building location, and how it’s been a local spot since the 60’s, despite the fact Barnyard only moved in late 2012, and only opened this year. They have virtually nothing to do with the memories or reputation the property has obtained over the years to make it so unique in the first place. The website actually bragged about being located next door to the “Blue Grafitti Box” aka Paper Scissors Rock, (the very building they want to take over) and the graffiti art proudly displayed on the building. The art was specifically created FOR Paper Scissors Rock, and they dropped the artist’s name (Asylum), when he has never even spoken to any of the management of The Barnyard. The site ranted about localism, when these very people have given locals nothing but the cold shoulder and a leering eye.
I laughed out loud when I read how the Head Chef, Jessie Barber, creates dishes with “lack of pretension,” but then in the next paragraph, he is described as a self proclaimed “purist” in terms of cuisine. He was not shy to flaunt that he had mentored under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry (so much for lack of pretension). There was also the self-proclaiming statement that it’s a place to get “an honest bite to eat.” I had very hard time finding anything honest about The Barnyard. I have ordered beer from there, and glanced at the menu. The prices were not exactly affordable, nor did they seem simple. The service was less then accommodating, never mind friendly towards me. My jaw dropped in disbelief at the very end, when they insist to, “Come as you are.” Clearly only if you are to their liking, and look like you have money.
This place screams of gentrification and social elitism in some of the worst ways. It leeches off the reputation and hard work of others that came before it. It prides itself on including the neighborhood, while stomping it flat into the ground. It cuts corners with legalities to get ahead, while underhandedly misinforming their neighbors, who without proper facts, can’t even attempt to halt the process.
I guess all I have left to say about The Barnyard and places like it is this … Support your local shops, not your local snobs.