Hollywood Boulevard Merchants Not Getting Into Spirit of Academy Awards

Staff Reporter

Not everyone is happy that Hollywood is coming back to life.

The community's renewed popularity is making some shop owners angry as several event-related street closures recently have caused them to lose business.

Now they are dreading a planned five-day closure of a section of Hollywood Boulevard for the Academy Awards in two weeks.

"They are doing big damages to business. It's a mess," said Batia Zahavi, owner of Hollywood Souvenirs, a tourist shop located a few doors away from Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland, which will be the venue for the Oscars presentation on March 24. "We prefer that they go back to downtown for the (Academy Awards) presentation," she said. "Who's going to pay my rent?"

Zahavi has been in the souvenir business for nearly 15 years, but ever since Hollywood became the latest L.A. hot spot, she's seen a large number of street closures on Hollywood Boulevard for parades, parties, premieres and presentations.

The complaints are ironic. For years, business owners wished that Hollywood would lose its shabby veneer and return to its glamorous self. Now they are worried that their dream-come-true is turning into a nightmare.

Hollywood Boulevard is becoming so popular that last month it was the site for the Chinese Lunar New Year parade that traditionally has been held in Chinatown. The Sunday parade started at Vine Street and ended in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Hollywood Boulevard was closed for one mile, from Vine Street to La Brea Boulevard, making it impossible for tourists to get to the area. Parking was tied up.

"We have definitely become a victim of our own success. Hollywood is back with a bang," said City Councilman Eric Garcetti, whose district covers the heart of Hollywood.

Besides the closure of Hollywood Boulevard for five days in late March, the Hollywood & Highland complex will close on March 24, the day of the Academy Awards, as will the subway stop in front of the complex. Highland Avenue also will be closed that day from Sunset Boulevard to Franklin Avenue.

Zahavi's concerns were echoed by Frank Miceli, whose father opened Miceli's, an Italian restaurant in Hollywood more than 50 years ago.

"Miceli's is going to be dead the day and night of the Academy Awards," said Frank Miceli, whose eatery on Las Palmas Street is around the corner from Hollywood Boulevard. "I have a problem with that. Sunday is a busy day for us."

Garcetti helped set up an ad hoc advisory committee to establish new guidelines in the next two months curbing the number of street closures on the famous boulevard.

Currently, anyone who wants to get the boulevard closed for an event can go to the Bureau of Street Services and fill out a form listing why the street needs to be closed and its impact on the surrounding residents and businesses. But if applicants file a street closure request less than 45 days before an event, they can bypass this procedure and go straight to the City Council.

"The city council is up in L.A. They don't realize the impact on the business community," said Jose Malagon, a property owner and business owner who chairs the committee. "Not every event should be on Hollywood Boulevard."

Not all merchants are singing the blues. Ernie Duran, general manager of the Hamburger Hamlet, which is directly across the street from the Kodak Theatre, can't wait until Oscar night.

"It is actually going to bring in more foot traffic," he said. "You are going to get everyone who wants to see what is going on. There will be 4,000 employees setting up. They are going to have to eat somewhere."

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