Restaurant owner Van Nuys discusses the challenges of staying afloat

Restaurant owner Van Nuys discusses the challenges of staying afloat

Two years ago, the waitress at Lulu’s restaurant, Melanie Sanchez, was very emotional. Thanksgiving Day 2020 was the day after we received notice to leave. It was the first of what would be two furloughs in the past two years.

His Van Nuys restaurant boss, Mike Camorlinga, told us in November 2020 that state and county COVID-19 protocols were financially killing his business. They were losing about $10,000 a month. The rent was $21,000.

On November 26, 2020 he told me he might have to close the place. But by fast forwarding to Thanksgiving Day 2022, he managed to survive and get through the tough times. Now Mike and Melanie are working for this year’s Thanksgiving holiday. It serves meals for indoor dining. He’s filling those takeout orders as fast as he can,

Between two calls, he gives us bad news. Something we didn’t expect.

“I’m still going to close it next year,” Camorlinga said. “Because we’re not getting there. Minimum wage is up. Rent is up. All the supplies are incredibly high, and we’ve already arranged to close it next year.”

He called the pandemic the nail in his company’s coffin.

Melanie’s life has since improved. At the time, she took an emotional and financial hit. Due to the sudden loss of her job, she now has a savings account which she did not have at the time. As for what she’s grateful for this year?

“I have a lot of things to be thankful for. I’m very grateful for the work that I have. I’m very grateful for the customers who come back,” she said.

Longtime guests like Steve Beach have been coming here every Thanksgiving for years.

“We love this place. I just hope it doesn’t fall by the wayside,” Beach said.

Camorlinga likes it too. But, on this day to count the blessings, it is difficult for him to put together the words of what he is grateful for.

“At least we’re still alive and still here I guess,” he said.

But, now this man who started working here 43 years ago as a busboy aged 19 and became a landlord now faces the prospect of closing the doors.

“Unless a miracle happens, we are doomed,” Camorlinga said.

Nonetheless, there was a steady stream of customers filing past Lulu’s on this Thanksgiving Day.

Their arms were stuffed with cans of turkey, cranberry sauce, other toppings, and pie. These satisfied customers enjoy their holiday meals thanks to the hard work of Mike Camoranga and his team.

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