The Van Nuys restaurant owner talks about the challenges of staying afloat

Two years ago, the waitress at Lulu’s Restaurant, Melanie Sanchez, was very emotional. Thanksgiving Day 2020 was the day after she received a holiday message. It was the first of two vacations in the last two years.

Her boss at Van Nuys restaurant, Mike Camorlinga, told us in November 2020 that state and county COVID-19 protocols were financially ruining his business. They lost about $10,000 a month. Rent was $21,000.

On November 26, 2020 he told me he might have to close the shop. But fast-forward to Thanksgiving Day 2022, he’s managed to survive and navigate through the tough times. Now Mike and Melanie are working this year’s Thanksgiving holiday. She serves indoor meals. He fills those takeout orders as fast as he can,

In between he brings us bad news. Something we didn’t expect.

“I’ll still close it next year,” Camorlinga said. “Because we can’t do it. The minimum wage is high. The rents are high. All stocks are incredibly high and we have already agreed that we will close it next year.”

He called the pandemic the nail in the coffin for his business.

Melanie’s life has improved since then. It was then that she suffered an emotional and financial blow. Due to the sudden job loss, she now has a savings account that she didn’t have then. What is she grateful for this year?

“I have many things to be thankful for. I am very thankful for the job I have. I’m very thankful for the customers who keep coming back,” she said.

Longtime customers like Steve Beach have been coming here every Thanksgiving for years.

“We love this place. I just hope he doesn’t fall by the wayside,” Beach said.

Camorlinga loves it too. But on this day when blessings are counted, he finds it difficult to find words for what he is grateful for.

“At least we’re still alive and here I think,” he said.

But now this man, who started working here 43 years ago as a waiter at the age of 19 and changed ownership, now faces the prospect of closing the doors.

“Unless a miracle happens, we’re doomed,” Camorlinga said.

Nonetheless, this Thanksgiving, there was a constant parade of customers strutting through Lulu’s.

Her arms were filled with boxes of turkey, cranberry sauce, other side dishes, and cake. These happy customers are enjoying their holiday meals thanks to the hard work of Mike Camoranga and his team.

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