The most popular donut shop in LA? Well, not for long.
Glazed Donut Bistro opened on Santa Monica Boulevard near Palm in the heart of WeHo’s Boystown on Feb. 13. It had to close early that day because it was overwhelmed with customers who gobbled up such odd treats as beignets stuffed with fried chicken.
Eventually Glazed Donut was able to stock up and resume its normal operating hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and a split shift of 11 hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays that kept it open until midnight.
Now keeping donuts in stock isn’t Glazed Donut’s problem. Instead it’s figuring out how to bow out of a neighborhood that Glazed Donut employees says its owner was uncomfortable with because of its LGBT population.
Recently the donut shop closed completely for two weeks. About two weeks ago, a sign was posted on its window alleging it owed about $9,000 in back rent. It now is open again, but according it its website it’s only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays (It’s closed all day on Mondays and Tuesdays). Rumor has it that owner Harry Ben-Zvi has sold the lease to a Greek restaurateur.
What happened? Employees of Glazed Donut reached out to WEHOville with a host of complaints, including that the “artisan” (aka “handmade”) donuts sometimes were mass-produced frozen donuts defrosted in the back of the shop before being served to unsuspecting customers. They also complained that the temperature in the kitchen was in the 90s and that food wasn’t stored safely.
One ex-employee said he filed complaints with agencies such as Cal-OSHA and the LA County Department of Public Health. The health department confirmed that a complaint was filed on June 6, with an inspection following on June 10. The health department said its inspection did not find evidence of any of the alleged violations.
Then there were the concerns about Ben-Zvi’s alleged homophobia that were raised by three former employees, who asked that their names not be used. Another employee, who was willing to speak on the record, is Bernie Guzman, a former chef at Glazed. Guzman said that Ben-Zvi and his father opened the restaurant without realizing it was in a gay neighborhood. Guzman said Ben-Zvi upset the largely gay staff with some of his remarks. For example, he said, when the song “Dancing Queen” came on the radio, Ben-Zvi made a joke about it being the WeHo “theme song.” Guzman said that Ben-Zvi also made fun of transgender people and said they were mentally challenged.
“They didn’t really belong in that community,” said one former employee of Ben-Zvi and his father. “He [Ben-Zvi] wasn’t careful about things he said … I just don’t think they belonged in West Hollywood.”
In an email response to questions from WEHOville, Ben-Zvi denied the allegations of homophobic behavior.
“I chose to open a new donut themed eatery in West Hollywood precisely because of this city’s diversity,” he said.
“Our staff is as diverse as any eatery in this city. The front of the house staff consists of four men, four women.To the best of my knowledge, five are gay and five are minorities. The kitchen staff consist of seven men, four women.To the best of my knowledge, three are gay and nine are minorities. I say ‘to the best of my knowledge’ because I have never cared to ask, and any such information came up in conversation. All staff (regardless of gender or sexual orientation) are treated equally.”
Ben-Zvi also said Glazed Donuts had donated food to the city’s Rainbow Key Awards ceremony, which honors LGBT people, and to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization whose members perform in drag to raise money to fight sexual bigotry.
“Regarding frozen donuts,” Ben-Zvi said, “in preparation for Pride … we realized we did not have the capacity to serve the anticipated business for Pride Weekend. The only way to meet that capacity while protecting consistency and allowing us to serve a great artisan donut without raising prices was to bring in a limited amount of frozen donuts.”
Ben-Zvi didn’t respond to questions from WEHOville regarding the possible closing of Glazed Donut Bistro.