Watts institution Hawkins House of Burgers fighting to stay open amid dispute with Caltrans

WATTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- After surviving this past year amid a pandemic, a legendary burger place in Watts now has another fight on its hands.

The family-owned Hawkins House of Burgers is an institution in the community. For 82 years, it has stood on the corner of Slater Street and Imperial Highway.

"My grandfather built this place 80 years ago and now they're telling me in 2021, after...a major pandemic, that my building is encroaching on state property and I (have) to remove it within 60 days," said Cynthia Hawkins.

A week ago, Hawkins received a letter from the California Department of Transportation letting her know her building is encroaching on a portion of land owned by the state. That piece runs directly through her family's corner market and restaurant's kitchen.

Caltrans has signaled a willingness to work with Hawkins. In a letter dated November 18, 2019, the agency asked if she was interested in purchasing the property. She checked the box "yes" and wrote beside it: "absolutely."

In the meantime, Hawkins' customers are rallying in support of the restaurant.

"We have to find a solution for them to be able to stay here because the community loves this place and we need this place here." said customer Andre Williams.

Hawkins has set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of raising money to purchase the land, if given the opportunity.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, Caltrans said it has been working with Hawkins to resolve the encroachment issue, adding: "Caltrans is pausing plans to sell the leased property through public auction so we can work with Hawkins on a resolution to help prevent any disruption to her business."

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