Thursday, May 30, 2024

The last Indian hold in DTLB: Amid few office workers and landlord issues, Fresh Kabobs closes permanently

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Opening in 2010, was an almost-thoroughly Northern Indian space—with hints of Pakistani and, of course, American influence in there—that filled a major gap in the Downtown food scene: Fresh Kabobs was fast, efficient, wonderful Indian grub in the heart of DTLB that catered to both the Office Worker Lunch and the I Need an Great-but-Easy Meal crowds.

And owners Rafi Kahn and Raza Pir were the last of their kind in Downtown: Following the closing of Kabob Curry, one of Long Beach’s OG Indian-Pakistani joints that is now occupied by Gu Ramen and (the disgraced) R Bar, it was their food that was the sole representation of Indian food-through-an American lens. Bowls of biryani and mounds of garlic naan were met with the city’s best representation of fusion Indian food, like their masterful, addictive masala fries.

Pir did not mince words, noting that it goes beyond the lack of office workers since the pandemic forced workers to stay home—and it should be noted that, in particular, the heavy influx of workers with Indian and Pakistani heritage that came with Molina Healthcare moving Downtown brought with it a heft of customers for Fresh Kabobs. It essentially tied between two major things: Sales and their new, “careless” landlords.

Fresh Kabobs has long been at the center of City Place’s land ownership/tenant drama: In 2013, they were displaced from their original location to make room for the Chuck E. Cheese that is now shuttered. (Yes, even after being displaced by a corporate chain, it outlived said corporate chain.)

Come mid-pandemic, following a shift in landlords after its previous owner defaulted on a major loan, they were forced to deal with a new landlord—whom, according to Pir, don’t want to play ball fairly.

“I can tell you that if the new City Place landlords would have done a better job, we might have not closed,” Pir said. “Two years of this pandemic and not once did they reach out or tried to help. All they care about is their money. We never missed a single month of rent. But when we were in trouble [following a sales decline], and we needed help, they said, ‘No.'”

Pir notes that, following the formal announcement of their departure, the landlords agreed they could “see what could be done to help” if Pir and Kahn signed a new, five-year lease. The representatives of the multi-pronged ownership of City Place have yet to return comment.

“Besides [all of the previously mentioned things],” Pir said, “it’s also rising food costs that we can’t keep up with. When you combine that with a constant decline in sales—including a huge lack of catering orders this holiday season… It’s overwhelming. There are many factors but the biggest is the loss of sales.”

Pir even notes that third-party delivery apps like GrubHub and UberEats—which have created a business out of the pandemic and depending on people staying home—have such an overwhelming commission charge that with small sales, the books don’t balance.

“I could not continue to put any more money from my savings,” Pir said, noting that customers have been messaging him with encouragement to reopen. “I just can’t anymore.”

Fresh Kabobs was located at 145 E. 4th St.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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