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Occupy L.A. Drives Up Sales For Tobacco, Liquor, Pizzas And Chinese Food

Hannah Madans |
October 20, 2011 | 2:14 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor

Tents at Occupy L.A. (courtesy Creative Commons)
Tents at Occupy L.A. (courtesy Creative Commons)
As Occupy L.A. nears the end of its third week, some nearby businesses say they've enjoyed a small increase in sales.

For many stores, the increase has come from the sales of tobacco and liquor.

“We’ve seen increases in a certain department,” said Eddie Portillo, a supervisor at a nearby CVS. “Our liquor sales have increased. So has tobacco.”

Shezy Khan, the owner of Express News, a local newsstand that sells magazines, lottery tickets, cigarettes, candy and hot drinks also said he saw an increase in the sale of tobacco since Occupy L.A. started.

He said he has not, however, seen an increase in the sale of other goods from people at Occupy L.A., even after offering a 20 percent discount to people who come to his store from Occupy L.A.

“Water and stuff is donated to Occupiers, so there’s no need to come in for that stuff,” Khan said.

Khan said that his business has seen some increase in sales, though, through media coverage.

“The movement itself hasn’t really picked up [sales], probably because they’re going through tough financial times, but the media reporting, it has helped bring more people in,” Khan said.

A local Chinese restaurant, Liliya China Bistro, also said they’ve seen an increase in sales since the movement began, even though the movement has had some negative effects at the restaurant.

“There are pros and cons, the good side is it’s actually increased our business around dinner time where downtown it’s usually slow,” said Greg Ha, a manager at Liliya China Bistro. “The con is random people have come in and asked for random stuff like to use our restrooms. Last night we had a person come in and ask for a bucket of water.”

Ha said business has especially picked up on Mondays and Tuesdays when it is usually slow. He also said that business did particularly well on Saturday because there was a rally at Occupy L.A.

Ha said that he thinks Liliya China Bistro’s business has increased because of the restaurant’s proximity to Occupy L.A.

“After six o’clock this neighborhood becomes a ghost town,” Ha said. ‘We are the only Chinese restaurant in walking distance and we’re open until 10. So a lot of people come.”

Other days the restaurant stays open until 11. Ha said the restaurant is open later than a lot of other nearby restaurants, which may be another reason business has increased.

Not all businesses have seen an increase, however. Fabiola Sanchez, a manager at California Pita, said the restaurant has the same number of customers and there has been no changes in their clientele.

“No increases that I know of,” Sanchez said. “No one has mentioned that they're here.”

Some Occupy L.A. protestors said that they would like to support local businesses. Eddy Felus, who has been at Occupy L.A. since it started, said the movement supports the local Farmer’s Market and makes room for them.

Felus also said they have received donated pizzas.

“It’s not our own money, but people have been donating for us and helping the local businesses that way,” Felus said.

Elise Whitaker also said that pizzerias are likely the business that has seen the largest, most immediate increase in sales.

“Especially at the beginning, when people wanted to donate food, they’d order 10 to 15 pizzas a day that may otherwise not have been purchased,” Whitaker said.

Other Occupy L.A. demonstrators, such as Amy Pigg, said it is important to support local businesses.

“I think if we’re going to be down here we have to support local businesses,” Pigg said. “We go to the Farmer's Market and should support businesses within six miles.”

Pigg said that while it is important to support local businesses, she thinks going to nearby chains goes against some of the ideas of the movement.

“People are going to local coffee shops to charge their phone and use their computer and buy something while they're there, but at local stores, the consensus is not to support chains like Starbucks,” Pigg said.

Whitaker agreed and said she tries to frequent local businesses but “avoid corporate businesses.”


Reach associate news editor Hannah Madans here.


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