A popular downtown L.A. taco restaurant is struggling to stay afloat after thieves escaped with tens of thousands of dollars in a smash-and-grab burglary.
Surveillance video caught several masked suspects breaking in and escaping with a cash-filled safe on Oct. 19.
Brittney Valles, co-owner of Guerilla Tacos, said the future of the Michelin-recognized restaurant is now uncertain after this devastating financial loss.
“They had crowbars and crow-barred every single door, even doors that were not locked,” Valles said. “They broke my door frames that really didn’t really need to be broken.”
The unfortunate part, Valles said, is they had placed an unusually high amount of money in the safe the night it was stolen.
“We had a little under $20,000 which is very, very rare for us,” she said.
At the time, Valles was out of the country on a mezcal buying trip for the restaurant. Over the course of a week, her staff members filled the safe with customer cash but were never instructed to deposit it at the bank.
“That is an expensive lesson,” Valles laments.
Unfortunately, Valles said this isn’t the first time her restaurant has been targeted as her other business has also fallen victim to burglars.
“My restaurant in Rampart Village, called Gogo’s Tacos. It’s a very tiny restaurant,” she said. “It’s been there for two years. We’ve been robbed like six times.”
During those thefts, she said very little cash was taken, but the thieves caused thousands of dollars in damage.
“At the end of the day, if our business continues to get robbed and if there’s no incentive to avoid robbing places, then we will have to close and we have 50 employees and they will all lose their jobs,” she said. “If there are no barriers to stop it, then it will continue.”
In addition to the constant threat of burglary, Valles said the city of L.A. makes it incredibly difficult for owners to run a small business.
“Los Angeles is the most difficult city in the country, in my opinion, to open a restaurant,” she said. “I believe it’s an equity issue. You need to have thousands of dollars just to pay for the paperwork. What I want the city to do is to make it easier to run a small business so things like this don’t affect us so much.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said they’re currently investigating the burglary. Valles said she doesn’t know whether it was an inside job but has since installed reinforced locks and a new security system.
She’s now worried about being able to pay her staff and whether she can keep her business open.
“Support local business, because it truly, positively impacts the finances in our local economy,” Valles said. “I would say of the dollar that you spend, 75 cents stays in the community versus if you were to spend that dollar at a McDonald’s, maybe 20 cents of that would stay in the community. So, be really intentional about where you buy from.”
Those interested in helping Guerilla Taco’s recovery efforts can visit the business located on 7th and Mateo Streets in the Arts District.