Sunset Junction Fallout, Part II: Local Businesses Got Screwed
Sunset Junction in happier days
Many Silver Lake businesses expected to take a financial hit when Sunset Junction got cancelled. Well, it turned out they did.
"It was very painful," says Steven Edelson, owner of famed Silver Lake restaurant and nightclub El Cid. "We lost about $80,000 this weekend that we would've made during Sunset Junction."
The venue was to host the festival's new "Locals Only" stage, and Edelson had hoped to go on with their show even without the festival. "We invited all the bands to still play with us, but they weren't interested without the draw of Sunset Junction. I don't blame them." Instead the venue had a quieter weekend, with only a DJ and a couple of bands, and thus suffered financially.
Many in the Silver Lake and Echo Park community were able to quickly organize events to fill the void of the festival's absence, which softened the blow for some. These events helped some proprietors make more money than they would on a normal weekend, but nearly everyone we talked to said they lost money compared to last year.
David Granger, the manager of Silver Lake's Good Luck Bar, estimated the establishment's losses at about 20%. "All the places that are usually really busy during the day [at Sunset Junction] were empty. It was kind of sad," he says. He adds that the bar also had to cut down on staff for the weekend, which folks "weren't happy about."
Good Microwbrew and Grill -- located in the heart of things near Sunset Blvd. and Hyperion Ave. -- suffered a similar fate. A server there says the eatery drew 3-400 customers for the weekend, a far cry from the thousands they were accustomed to seeing during Sunset Junction.
"Business was steady on Saturday, but on Sunday we were so disappointed," says Omar Diaz, a server at Good for 11 years. "We definitely lost a lot of money."
At Mexican eatery Malo, another popular stop for festival-goers, business was "definitely down compared what we would've had for Sunset Junction," says manager Jonathan Kakacek. "That was frustrating."
Home décor shop ReForm School helped organize one of the fill-in community events over the weekend, called the "No Function Junction," which featured performances by the Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere and others.
The Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere perform at "No Function Junction"
"We would've lost money if hadn't gotten this together," says co-owner Billie Lopez. "Thankfully, business was comparable [to what we would've made during the festival] because we got a good crowd out. I think a lot of people were excited about something that was more of a grassroots neighborhood party."
Local retailers seemed to fair better than bars and restaurants, but they lost money as well. The worst hit may have been the vendors.
Carols Guillen, who was planning to sell smoothies at the festival, says Sunset Junction owes him $1400 for the cost of his booth and a deposit. That comes in addition to the $1000 he spent on supplies.
"I got a voicemail the day before the festival letting us know it was cancelled," Guillen says, adding that this would have been the first year his family-run Lacuma Smoothies had a stand at Sunset Junction. "I trusted the festival because they've been around for over thirty years. We still haven't heard anything about getting our money back."
That voicemail, from Sunset Junction's Vendor Coordinator Edwin Gomez, also claimed that vendors would be refunded sometime this week, but when Guillen tracked him down at the Silver Lake Farmer's Market on Saturday, Gomez told him he "wasn't sure of anything."
"He said...because he's not the owner, he doesn't know anything," Guillen says, adding that Gomez refused to give him his phone number and told him he didn't have any contact information for organizer Michael McKinley. "He just said to keep checking my e-mail, and that I could find a number online. But that number is disconnected."
For vendors like Guillen, getting the money back is more than a question of principle: his family counts on the booth's earnings to keep his son in college.
"I called the bank but they said it was ultimately up to the organization to refund us," he says, adding that he hopes to get in touch with other vendors to take collective legal action if the money isn't returned soon.
"We're at a complete loss. We just don't know what to do."
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