Non-profit church and coffee shop shut down following false vermin complaint
By Dolores Quintana
Metropolis Santa Monica is a multi-use facility located at 603 Arizona Ave downtown, that includes a coffee shop called Metro Café. They are a non-profit organization and church that seeks to serve the community, particularly those at risk or who might be forgotten. Their programs and services are meant to help the most vulnerable, low-income seniors and families, and the unhoused.
Metro Café was shut for 11 months during the pandemic, which severely hampered its ability to fund its organization. Metropolis owes deferred rent to their landlord from the time during the COVID lockdowns At the time that the Café, their main source of revenue, had been closed.
Back in December, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) got a complaint that the kitchen of the Café was infested with vermin shortly after Metropolis’ attempt to reopen the Café. When Public Health showed up to investigate the facility, they found that the claim was totally false, however, The Health Department found that Metropolis Café’s exemption as a secondary use facility would have to be upgraded to a full restaurant facility permit. They have since been working with the city to be able to get the permit but it involves new architectural plans and renovations that Metropolis paid for.
When asked about the issues at Metropolis, a Public Health spokesperson issued this response via email, “A complaint regarding a cockroach infestation at the Metro Café located at 603 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica was investigated by our Public Health Inspector on December 21, 2021. While the visit did not validate the cockroach complaint, it did reveal that the restaurant was operating without a public health permit, which is required by State law. The restaurant was ordered to close and directed to submit plans to Public Health. The business owner was provided with the information necessary to come into compliance and be able to apply for a public health permit. Additionally, our records indicate that this is a new kitchen facility, and not a remodel.”
When asked who was responsible for the false complaint, the spokesperson responded that the names of those who file complaints with the Public Health are not public records.
On May 18, 2022, Metropolis’ landlord gave them a three-day notice to pay or quit the $44,000 total rent. Metropolis has set up a GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-us-save-metropolis) to help raise $50,000 to pay the deferred rent. As it stands, donations are at $17,531.
We asked Pastor Steven Snook for an update regarding Metropolis’ situation regarding the three-day notice to pay or quit and he responded via email, “We have been able to meet the landlord’s demands in part. We came to an agreement and are catching up with deferred rent that is due. We’re still here. The cafe is not open yet, but the ball is in our court now as to the city.
Pastor Steve added, “I want to reiterate that I don’t want to make it about the landlord. We owed the back rent, we were just not in a position to pay it in full and he was not in the position to extend it any longer to meet us where we were.”
The landlord did not respond to inquiries prior to press time.
Metropolis is an organization made up of three separate parts: Metro Church, Metro Co-lab, and Metro Café. During the pandemic, Metropolis has incredibly been able to continue to feed the needy from their soup kitchen and through their food pantry, despite the many issues that it has faced.
Metro Café is Metropolis’ donation model coffee shop that is their primary source of funds for their charity work and their organization in general. Even though the shop is run on the donation model, it has proven to be a strong source of income for the organization. Without the income generated from Metro Café, Metropolis cannot continue to exist in its current form. During the pandemic, the organization served 35.000 and provided 15,000 meals, 63,000 bags of groceries and 35,000 hygiene kits. They also hosted many different events.
Founder and Pastor Steve Snook is also a chaplain at the Santa Monica Police Department for 19 years and a chaplain at UCLA Hospital. Pastor Steve said that the organization first got access to the property at Sixth and Arizona in 2015. He said that it became the Church’s mission to show the community how fully Metropolis was to the community and to meet the needs of the community.
According to Pastor Steve, it was about four and a half years ago that the organization realized that the inhabitants of the 13-story tower next to the Metropolis facility were in need of regular deliveries of groceries to be able to survive. It became clear to Metropolis during the pandemic that those grocery bags were essential to the seniors who lived in the tower and Metropolis continued to give those essentials to seniors through their Our Neighbor’s Pantry Program which distributes the groceries to the tenants on Thursdays.
In addition to Our Neighbor’s Pantry, the church has the Sunday Lunch program where volunteers pack lunches and hygiene kits for distribution to those in need.
Volunteer Tiffany Lam said, via email statement, “Santa Monica has a high number of people experiencing homelessness as well as many seniors that have no other means of community, and Metropolis has provided them with more than just food and hygiene, but someone to talk to and a place to gather without any fear of judgment. Our fear is that if we lose our brick-and-mortar location, overnight the seniors and people experiencing homelessness who we feed will have nowhere else to turn.”