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Family-owned coffee shop closes among city pressures

Created: 12 November, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
5 min read

The City of San Diego has decided that Latté Mi Corazón does not meet current code compliance after 7 years of operating.

    A popular family-owned coffee shop and cultural center in Sherman Heights will be closing this Friday, Nov. 12, due to alleged zoning violations, causing an outcry and support from the local community.

    Owners of Latté Mi Corazón, which before used to be called Chicano Perk, will be having a closing celebration and press conference Friday at 5 p.m. to tell their loyal costumers and supporters the reasons the City of San Diego gave them when they were told they weren’t in compliance with zoning guidelines.

    After following up on a complaint, the City of San Diego has decided that Latté Mi Corazón does not meet current code compliance.

    “After 7 years of operating our family business, this is the first time the City of San Diego decides to raise a flag. We have paid for our business permits each year and are completely shocked that the city is doing this to us now,” stated Jerry Guzman-Vergara, co-owner of Latté Mi Corazón. 

    In seven years that the coffee shop has been in operation, the last and a half as Latté Mi Corazón, it has become a cultural icon in Sherman Heights, hosting a wide arrange of cultural events, festival, and film screenings. It was also a common place for grass-roots organizations and students to meet to plan campaigns, fundraisers, and other community-oriented activities.

    “In the current state of the economy, we are deeply saddened that the city would request that we close our family business. We are also very disappointed and shocked that it took The City of San Diego over 7 years to come to a conclusion that our business is not in compliance with local zoning guidelines. We feel that the City has let us down,” said Ricardo Medina, co-owner of Latté Mi Corazón.

    Guzman-Vergara said that a city inspector in May of this year told the owners that the coffee shop is located in a multiple use location not in a mixed use location. Guzman-Vergara’s house is located in the same lot as the coffee shop.

    “We were surprised that the city is barely telling us this, after seven years, after investing so much money into our business,” he said. Our goal was to serve the community as the only coffee shop in the area.”

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    Guzman-Vergara said he and Medina had been working with Councilmember Ben Hueso’s office, which represents Sherman Heights, and also with Mayor Jerry Sander’s office to find a solution. But the only option they had at this point was to apply for a conditional use permit from Development Services, which can cost up to $14,000.

    “We had to make a business decision for our company. Do we want to invest more money in a business we can’t expand or should we look for another permanent space? So we decided to make a smart investment for the future”, Guzman-Vergara said.

    Hueso couldn’t be reached for comment before deadline.

    Following the closing of Latté Mi Corazón, the owners will be looking for a new and permanent space within the Imperial Avenue Business Corridor to once again reopen their doors to the community as soon as possible.

    Meanwhile, the Sherman Heights Community Center Board of Directors has pledged to help the small business by offering to house their coffee cart at the Sherman Heights Community Center Facility at 2258 Island Avenue, San Diego, CA 92102. “As a community development corporation, we feel that we need to do our part in the revitalization of our local economy. Keeping our local family owned coffee-shop in business while they find a new home is just the first step in the process,” said Venus Molina, President of the Sherman Heights Community Center. Latté Mi Corazón hopes to start operations at its new proposed temporary location no later than January 2011.

    The owners of the coffee shop have used Facebook and e-mail to let the community know about the change.

    “We ask that you not be sad, because it will make us even more sad!” the owners wrote on Latté Mi Corazon´s Facebook on the invitation to the closing celebration. “But we do ask that you celebrate this day with us as an opportunity to spread awareness of the continued struggles in our community and the need to continue supporting and revitalizing our local economy. Please stop by and see us – let’s laugh a little, cry a little, and remember that finally only good things can come to our beloved barrios.”

    For many in Sherman Heights, Latté Mi Corazón had become a second home, a place where they could have a hot coffee early in a cold morning, or a hot chocolate with pan dulce before heading for work or school.

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    “Latte Mi Corazon has been much more than a gathering place for coffee, it has been a place for art, culture, and activism; a true community building space,” said Liliana Garcia-Rivera, Chair of the Community & Economic Development Committee of the Sherman Heights Community.  “To some it may appear that Jerry and Ricardo have made a business decision to close shop without a struggle, but in reality they have made a courageous decision to lead the business community into the new era of the revitalization Imperial Avenue. They lead by example and I am excited to be a part of this!”

    Latté Mi Corazón is located at 129 25th Imperial Ave., in Sherman Heights.

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