In recent years, both the food media at large and longtime matzo ball soup lovers have been collectively wringing their napkins in their hands over the plight of the American Jewish deli. Gone are the heydays of sky-high sandwiches and ubiquitous whitefish; even places like New York City are feeling the squeeze, as fewer and fewer delis are able to keep their doors open. It’s certainly the same for Los Angeles, which as of this week is preparing to suffer through the upcoming loss of longtime San Fernando Valley deli Solley’s Restaurant & Deli.
The San Fernando Valley Business Journal gave some front-page love to the departing Solley’s this past Monday. In the sweeping ode to the half-century old restaurant in Sherman Oaks, the paper breaks down its long history — including its full ownership by another popular deli, Jerry’s Famous Deli — while talking to many of the staff and customers on site about what the upcoming June 6 shutter means to them.
The paper at least in part attributes the shutter to changing demographics, calling the impending closure “yet another example of the sharp decline of Jewish delicatessens” overall, with younger generations less interested in heaping piles of pastrami and aging Jewish traditions, particularly in cities like Los Angeles, where healthier food options have taken hold.
More directly, however, Solley’s is succumbing to something much more tactile: a lease dispute. Last year, real estate developers Festival Cos. purchased the shopping center where Solley’s sits and has been allowing the longtime eatery to exist on a one-year lease extension while trying to work out new rental rates. Unfortunately, the inevitable price hike set against lagging sales means that Solley’s will have to close its doors next month.
It’s a sad end to a more than five-decade old deli, and shows just how important underlying lease agreements are to the restaurant industry as a whole. Festival Cos. management say that they tried to keep the restaurant on site, but weren’t able to come to a satisfying solution. Instead, they’ll be giving the entire property a facelift in the coming months, likely bringing several newer, more high-profile restaurant tenants in the process.
-Farley Elliot, EaterLA