WeHo Business Owner Refuses to Close Because of COVID-19

Framing Gallery, 8527 Santa Monica Blvd.

A local business owner’s refusal to close his picture framing shop because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has angered some West Hollywood residents who have taken to Facebook to condemn him.

Zohar Wertheim, who opened the Framing Gallery at 8527 Santa Monica Blvd. on April 4, 1994, says the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s emergency declaration that all non-essential business should close is an example of government overreach.

Zohar Wertheim

“I refuse to shut down. This is not Nazi Germany,” said Wertheim, who noted that he is gay, Jewish and politically conservative.

“My business poses zero to no threat to anybody,” he said. Wertheim said he sees greater risks of infection from the people walking in and out of Healthy Spot, the pet supply and grooming shop near his frame shop. He also cited the fact that Koontz Hardware remains open as a sign that his business was being unfairly singled out as nonessential.

Wertheim said this his business is essential – “It is essential to me, essential to my family.”

Wertheim said he keeps the front door to his shop closed and lets in customers one at a time. On his glass front door he has posted a sign saying “NOT CLOSED FOR BUSINESS. This is simply discrimination and will not be accepted by this shop!” the sign reads. “As long as other businesses are open, my business will remain open and will take care protecting my customers. Only one person at a time will be allowed in the shop for customer support, pickups and help.”

Wertheim said that someone from the city’s Code Enforcement Division and also Sheriff’s deputies have stopped by his frame shop and told him to shut the business down. The deputies “knocked at my door and said I should close my place. I said it isn’t open. My door is closed. I am not shutting down my business.”

A statement posted on the front door of the Framing Gallery

Wertheim’s refusal to close his shop drew an angry response from people posting on the Facebook page of Jimmy Palmieri, who yesterday alerted his followers about it.  Some said they would boycott the store in the future. Others said the city should shut the business down.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on March 21 issued an order that all “non-essential” businesses be closed to reduce the chance that people infected with COVID-19, a virus transmitted by coughs and sneezing, would infect others. Among those deemed essential are medical facilities, grocery stores and supermarkets, pharmacies, those selling pet supplies and hardware stores. 

Wertheim also was criticized because he is a Republican. “He is not only spreading disease by not complying, but he also has evil, Repub–can ties through the horrid Log Cabin affiliation,” said one critic in a reference to the Log Cabin Republicans, an association of gay members of the Republican Party.

“Only a leftie would talk like that,” Wertheim said in response to his critics. “I’m Jewish, I’m gay, I’m conservative. I used to be on the left. A conservative person would never talk like that. There is an emptiness on the left that they can never fill with anything,

“The gay community is a self-hating community. It hates its own. They always complain and make their own people look bad because it makes them look good.”

As to the threat of a boycott? “My business has been boycotted for many other reasons. Let them boycott it,” Wertheim said.

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chloe ross
chloe ross
2 years ago

If I had to define a non-essential business I would place picture framing at the very top. His defiance of the regulation to keep others safe and healthy and his conservative leanings make total sense. And there’s this; I am skeptical people are flocking to his shop. Social distancing works both ways

John Fitzgerald Keitel

Zohar – What’s going on, dude, and why all the drama? Are you pissed because your brother owns a pharmacy a few doors down and is able to stay open because he’s deemed essential, while you’re not? Sorry bud, under these circumstances, he is essential, and you’re not. Neither am I, even though my livelihood is essential to me, too. So get over it. If you wanted to keep framing through the shutdown, fine. Just put a sign in your window that reads, “Still framing while the shop’s closed, so call, text, or email for a private consult NOW!” With… Read more »

William Calhoun
William Calhoun
2 years ago

Sounds like a greedy money grubber to me! And to throw other neighborhood businesses under the bus is just cowardly. Healthy spot is essential to pet health and keeping dogs clean for the health benefit of their family. Koontz hardware is essential because it provides much needed supplies for people stuck at home. How are frames and whatever those eye sores in the window are essential? This place deserves to close for good

The Only Sane One Left
The Only Sane One Left
2 years ago

Having a business open to the general public is a privilege not a right. Business owners have to apply for a license to conduct business. While I sympathize with Zohar and his plight he is subject to the licensing and taxing requirements of the issuing body of his license. He chose to open a business in West Hollywood. HOWEVER, it is blatantly unfair that his landlord can continue unhindered to collect rent. His property owner is subject to the same regulatory authority that is shutting Zohar down, namely the City of West Hollywood. It is only fair that the City… Read more »

Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy
2 years ago

What makes you so sure the tenants can’t pay their rent, Sane One? Maybe they’re well prepared for this. And what makes you think the landlords are able to get along without the rents owed to them? When their mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance are factored in they may not have the good income that you assume they have. I have a friend who owns a very nice, upscale business with several employees but he makes less money than any of his employees. He can’t afford an apartment so he sleeps (illegally) at his business and showers at the gym.

Harlan
Harlan
2 years ago

This is incredibly irresponsible of this business owner. I understand he has bills to pay but getting something framed is a nonessential service that puts himself and his patrons at risk.

I’ve submitted his business through the City of LA’s portal to report business that are in noncompliance.

adam
adam
2 years ago

How do his patrons know if he is or isn’t infected? Also, is he wiping down his counters after people come and go? I used to live right behind his store on West Knoll Dr and spoke to him several times. He is pleasant enough but ruthless. My gut sense is that he doesn’t give a sh*t if his patrons get infected. He just wants the $$$. We got in a disagreement once many years ago b/c he didn’t want to pay his part time employee any sick time. I told him that was a typical Republican thing to say… Read more »

O.M.G.
O.M.G.
2 years ago
Reply to  adam

“A typical Republican thing to say?” You hear that in West Hollywood all the time from the elitist tree-hugging Democrats like the five members of the city council. Who totally forget that Jeff Bezos, the Amazon guy and owner of the Washington Post, a major Democrat, is out to destroy the guy who attempted to create a union. Bezos aka Bozo treats his employees like slave labor. So let’s stop all this slop about how wonderful the Democrats are, especially in West Hollywood where the City Council could have supplied everybody masks out of the $100 Million stashed away to… Read more »

Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy
2 years ago
Reply to  O.M.G.

O.M.G., you had me until that last sentence. What’s your problem with the rich?

Rob S
Rob S
2 years ago

As if anyone goes to this store anyways.
Aaron brothers closing was probably the best thing to happen to this business, yet no one shops here.

Frankly this is just free publicity for those wanting to get something framed during a pandemic.

adam
adam
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob S

Agree. I went there once – it’s expensive and there is no parking.

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
2 years ago

He’s running a business. He’s not an employee of the City of West Hollywood where they don’t lay you off and most don’t even live here. Yesterday, I picked up the mail at WEHO Mail on Havenhurst just south of Santa Monica. The owner has created a very safe environment for customers but he was concerned about the “gatherings” next door at Miss Melbourne Coffee and I could see why. In the small patio in front of the coffee place, recently created by the City of West Hollywood, there were at least 11 people congregating. No social distancing, highlighted by… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Grace

Countries in the EU, as I understand it (not an expert), have month long paid vacations. Customarily various businesses also shut down during the long summer holiday. This concept is baked into their business plans. Currently, there is also a back stop. Workers are paid and not laid off, businesses adapt safely and the governments will soften the blow as much as possible. In the US there is no such concept other than the agony of going through unemployment requests, another socially traumatic process fraught with exponential health challenges. However, during this period, many cities could have underwritten a variation… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Grace

The orders in place that restrict business operations are in place by the Governor and the Los Angeles County Health Officer, not the City of West Hollywood. I don’t quite understand the hostility toward City employees in this context.

Kelly
Kelly
2 years ago

God bless Zohar.

John Fitzgerald Keitel
Reply to  Kelly

Your god, not mine.

Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy
2 years ago

At some point, probably coming soon, we all will have to get back to work, and the virus will still have not been contained. And every business will do what they can to protect themselves and their customers from the virus, just as Zohar is doing now. It will be up to each of us, as we shop and conduct our personal affairs, to take the precautions we’ve learned to do. We will have to accept that there will be a risk. But if we don’t get back to opening businesses our lives will never return to what we are… Read more »

Robert West
Robert West
2 years ago

Ive met this guy. Im a fan. Im not wearing a mask right now.
You have to admit, hes got a pretty good case. And we are “all in this together” until its time to pay the bills. And he is taking precautions. And well,Pavillions started selling frames (select)

Gary B Golden
Gary B Golden
2 years ago

He seems to be taking a responsible approach that is likely to harm nobody. He’s not holding meetings. Surely there’s a far greater risk in the supermarket. Businesses that can open safely should to help restore the economy.

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