Coronavirus crisis: Rent-forgiveness proposal introduced to help struggling Olvera Street merchants

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- On a normal weekday, Olvera Street would be full of tourists and merchants eager to sell their wares.

On Wednesday there was hardly a soul was walking through the iconic Los Angeles landmark.

The Mexican marketplace has been open since 1930. Edward Flores' family has operated their cafe there for nearly 90 years.

"I know all of the people here on Olvera street," Flores said. "They're my family, they're my friends so it breaks my heart to see this place so desolate."

Flores said his business is down nearly 90 percent and he's laid off all of his employees. It's just him working the cafe.

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The few visitors who were there Wednesday said it was disheartening so see the previously bustling L.A. landmark so quiet.

Kinda Claiborne said: "I've lived in downtown for almost 20 years and this is the first time I've seen Olvera Street completely desolate."

The merchants association is working with the city of Los Angeles -- the landlord -- on a rental forgiveness proposal. Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Olvera Street, told ABC7: "In an effort to preserve these legacy businesses I introduced a motion requesting that El Pueblo waive the merchants rent payments."

That's for April and May. The merchants association is hoping rent can be waived through at least June.

Christina Mariscal Pasten says her family has had their store at Olvera Street for 90 years. She's also with the Olvera Street Merchants Association Foundation.

She's hoping for the rent being waived through June, "because the reality is that once we are phased in, whenever that will be, we don't know when business will be back to normal," she said.

Thy Nguyen, who lives in downtown Los Angeles, said: "I think it's going to be really important once like, the world and LA reopens for everyone to support local businesses, restaurants, shopping stores just so everyone can kind of get back on their feet."
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