Alt-media in the City of Angels is in the midst of a particularly devilish controversy and the service industry is getting involved. After a group of unpopular investors bought the popular publication LA Weekly and gutted the newsroom, Los Angeles bartenders and restaurants are striking back. A growing group of degustation destinations are pulling out of the paper’s annual “Sips n’ Sweets” event.
At the vanguard of the movement is veteran (former) LA Weekly music writer, Jeff Weiss. Today, Weiss tweeted out a call for local eateries to drop out of the tasting event. “If we get these restaurants, chefs & bars to drop out of the event, LA Weekly will be forced to refund $$. They’ll be financially devastated.” Weiss wrote, “Mind you, these guys are all giving free product off the strength of 40 yrs of LA Weekly goodwill. If they know what’s up, they’ll bail.” The call was followed by a list of participating establishments along with contact info and a loose script.
Here’s a list of the restaurants, bars & chefs that we need to call and & email today. Here’s a loose script to follow. I urge you to be polite. These restaurants & sponsors are blameless. They don’t know yet that LA Weekly has been hijacked by crooks & liars. pic.twitter.com/S5hqSAr56U
— Otto Von Biz Markie (@Passionweiss) December 5, 2017
Deposed LA Weekly Food Editor Katherine Spiers soon chimed in to report that nouveau-med favorite Momed joined the boycott.
— Katherine Spiers (@katherinespiers) December 5, 2017
Then, Downtown’s Otium followed suit. “Otium will no longer participate in Sips & Sweets,” said a spokesperson for the popular contemporary restaurant. “There are a lot of questions about what LA Weekly will look like moving forward and until we know more we’re going to focus on other events.”
The target of all the rage is Semanal Media, which bought the alt-weekly from Voice Media Group last week. Semanal’s opening move included laying off all but one writer and most of the paper’s editors. To add salt to an open wound, the new ownership proceeded to tweet out a (now deleted) call for unpaid writers to stock their now-vacant newsroom. The tweet requested that “passionate Angelinos [sic] to share stories about their life and culture in L.A.” Social media was soon ablaze with a #BoycottLAWeekly hashtag. Then, it got worse…
A few days later the identity of the previously unknown buyers’ group was revealed. Semanal is comprised primarily of men residing in or linked to conservative bastion Orange County, a far cry from the progressive pub’s vibe. The group includes boutique hotel developer Paul Makarechian and real estate redeveloper Mike Mugel, both large donors to several Republican political campaigns. However, the lightning rod in the organization is new partner and recently appointed operations manager, Brian Calle. Calle’s resume includes a post as opinion editor for the notoriously right wing Orange County Register as well as ten other daily papers in the Southern California News Group. In addition, Calle is a vet of the far right-think tank, the Claremont Institute.
Calle claims that he left the Claremont Institute after realizing that he did not share their political leanings. He told the LA Times,”On economic issues I’m just right of center. On social issues I’m progressive. On immigration issues I’m very, very progressive.”
However, the spin has done little to stem the public backlash. At press time, #BoycottLAWeekly was trending on Twitter, Wanderlust Creamery had reportedly joined the boycott, and additional eateries were contemplating their role in the forthcoming event.