October 18, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

L.A. closes TikTok-famous Lincoln Heights night market

The Lincoln Heights night market, which gained popularity through TikTok, was closed down Thursday following widespread complaints from residents and businesses about its negative effect on the neighborhood.

The city closed Artesian Street from Avenue 33 to Humboldt Street, L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo’s office said in a statement, which would “eliminate illegal alcohol sales, public defecation and urination, and crime and violence that was caused by the market.”

During the closure, the statement said, the city “would fully assess the street and sidewalks, determine and perform work to abate human waste, cooking oil and flame damage, and restore vandalized signage, sidewalks, and curbs.”

“We support the economic opportunity that night markets provide to vendors and the culinary experiences it provides to consumers. However, it is unacceptable the way this site has negatively impacted the quality of life of Lincoln Heights residents and businesses,” Cedillo said in a statement. “Our duty is to maintain clean, safe and secure neighborhoods.”

What was a handful of small retailers last year had boomed into a full-fledged night market as some vendors tried to make up for money lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some weekend nights, at least 100 vendors would set up along the alley-like street, selling acrylic nails, earrings, cannabis pipes and food such as burgers, asada tacos and mini pancakes.

Thousands of people would descend on Lincoln Heights each week, sometimes spending nearly an hour searching for a place to park.

And that, Lincoln Heights residents said, was part of the problem.

One resident told The Times that he had to claim a parking spot in front of his house before the crowds arrived, so he wouldn’t have to park blocks away.

Residents described waking up to freshly dumped trash, puddles of urine and human feces. Business owners said blocked driveways prevented employees from driving home at the end of their shifts.

A group calling itself Respect Lincoln Heights sent out updates on gunshots, altercations and blocked streets.

“We have been making you, our civil servants, aware of these issues for many months,” said an email from the group, addressed to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Cedillo and the City Council.

Cedillo’s office said it consulted with city agencies including the Fire Department, Bureau of Sanitation, Department of Transportation and Bureau of Street Services about the market before instructing agencies “to begin the process of a street closure and full cleaning and maintenance of Artesian Street.”

It is unclear how long the street will be closed.

Erasmo Reyes, who began selling 50-cent tacos in Lincoln Heights more than a decade ago, learned of the closure Thursday afternoon.

Reyes was the first vendor to set up here, and it was his customers who coined his business’ now-celebrated name: Avenue 26 Tacos.

Though some vendors consider the money from the market extra income, he said, others are living off the sales they make each day.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Reyes said.

A few days ago, another vendor, Luis Peralta, sent a letter to Cedillo asking to meet and talk about the market. Peralta said he and his family ran a Mexican candy stand known as El Dulce.

“We the vendors understand the complaints of residents nearby and we would love to find a middle ground where we can continue to provide income for our families and joy for our community,” Peralta wrote. “We understand there is a right way to do things, from pulling out all the necessary permits to complying with city laws and regulations, we are willing to do it all. We just need help from people like yourself who can create a dialogue with the surrounding community to find solutions for their wants and needs as for ours.”

He and other vendors planned to move to a nearby street in Lincoln Heights to sell once more.

“It’s the only income we have,” he said.

Times staff writer Steve Lopez contributed to this report.