Suehiro Cafe Eviction: What Small Businesses Are Up Against, and How LTSC Helps - Little Tokyo Service Center

Suehiro Cafe Eviction: What Small Businesses Are Up Against, and How LTSC Helps

Little Tokyo’s beloved Suehiro Cafe was recently evicted from their iconic First Street location. Community stakeholders rallied together on December 4th, 2023 at Suehiro’s storefront to call for solutions.

For over 50 years, Suehiro has served the Little Tokyo community not just with their comforting home-style Japanese dishes, but as a gathering place for memory making. As a community-based nonprofit, LTSC has collaborated with Suehiro over the years through our Small Business Program, various community initiatives, advocacy efforts, and most recently in a discussion to bring Suehiro back to the neighborhood with retail space in our upcoming affordable housing development in Little Tokyo’s historic core.

LTSC Director of Community Building and Engagement, Grant Sunoo, spoke at the December 4th rally. Selected passages from his remarks are shared below:

LTSC stands in support of Suehiro and joins the call for Tony Sperl to immediately halt his unjust eviction of Suehiro. 

As a community-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and strengthening SoCal’s unique ethnic communities, LTSC has been involved in supporting residents and small businesses in Little Tokyo for over 40 years.  This has included working with Suehiro going back to the 1980s. More recently, as a client of our small business program, we have supported them in establishing their new location and, if they are displaced by this eviction, we are hopeful that we can support them in an eventual return to Little Tokyo. 

For many of us, losing Suehiro Cafe from this block goes beyond the loss of a favorite lunch, dinner, or late night spot.  It’s the loss of identity as a community, the erasure of crucial cultural landmarks – and is representative of the dozens of other businesses which have been lost over the years.

This is not new. Throughout its nearly 140 year history, the Little Tokyo community has weathered waves of displacement.  From the wholesale uprooting and incarceration of the Japanese American community to the city’s expansion of the Civic Center, to decades of redevelopment, and most recently the gentrification of the City core, Little Tokyo has fought to establish, protect, and sustain its identity as a community. We also recognize that Little Tokyo is not alone in this struggle.  It’s a phenomenon that has affected just about every neighborhood in our City – particularly those that are low income communities of color.

Thus – in addition to calling on Tony Sperl to stop the eviction process against Suehiro Cafe and negotiate a realistic lease,  we are also calling on the City of Los Angeles to step up to protect legacy small businesses–the lifeblood of our communities. We implore the City to: 1) implement a legacy business program that prioritizes stability in low income communities of color by incentivizing long-term leases for businesses like Suehiro & provides concrete measures to ensure that future eviction and displacement is avoided; and 2) create other meaningful policies that will protect small businesses NOW.   It is imperative that the City (in partnership with community partners) consider policies for vulnerable small businesses. 

In Little Tokyo, as in many other immigrant communities, small businesses such as Suehiro have been vital to the community’s success. They’re a conductor of culture, a gathering place for community, a crucial contributor to the local economy, and provide jobs for immigrant workers when others won’t. To Kenji and your family – we love you and Suehiro.  LTSC and our Little Tokyo community have made our intentions clear.  We will support your business no matter where it is – but we will also fight for you to remain a cherished Little Tokyo landmark for generations to come. 

ABC7 News Coverage of the December 4th rally:

Read more about Suehiro and LTSC:

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