Located on the corner of Figueroa and 101st Street in South Central Los Angeles, Tam’s Burgers has been a part of the neighborhood for almost thirty years. Nick Benetatos took over the restaurant in the late ’80s after his father retired. Tam’s has withstood multiple recessions and even the 1992 LA riots.
“When the markets were burned down, liquor stores were burned down, everything was burned down, people had nowhere to go, they came to us. We were handing out loaves of bread for free.” says Benetatos. “We have much love for the community. And the community obviously has much love for us.”
But Tam’s is now facing its most daunting challenge yet: being deemed a “public nuisance” by the city of LA. The Los Angeles Police Department believes that Tam’s is a magnet for drug dealers, prostitutes and violent criminals.
“It has a nexus and a connection to a disproportionate amount of criminal activity,” says Detective Eric Moore, head of LAPD’s Nuisance Abatement unit.
But Benetatos says that he is simply making the best of a tough situation. He’s even tried to work with LAPD before, honoring their requests that he remove payphones on the property and remove tables for outdoor seating, which he says resulted in a 15 percent decline in revenues. The city’s zoning board has since ordered him to comply with 22 separate conditions, such as hiring a full-time security guard, fencing in the entire property and installing a security camera that links directly to LAPD’s electronic surveillance system. Benetatos says that the cost of compliance would put him out of business.
If Tam’s attracts a bad element it is only because the bad element needs to eat just like everyone else. This in not a business that by its nature brings criminal activity to the neighborhood, it a business located in a neighborhood with lots of criminal activity. It’s a pretty safe bet that no one goes to South Central LA for the food.
This is one of those stories that makes you wonder what is missing from the facts we have been given. I’m guessing that either the LAPD thinks the owner of Tam’s is directly involved in criminal activity or someone in LA city government has plans for that piece of property that don’t involve a drive-in restaurant.