Protesters took over my LA restaurant in anger over vegan menu change: Owner

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Vegan protesters took over a former vegan restaurant on Sunday, the owner told Fox News Digital, in anger over meat and dairy being added to the Los Angeles spot’s menu last month.

Owner Mollie Engelhart told Fox News Digital she called the police after protesters showed up at Sage Regenerative Kitchen & Brewery, but she claimed they didn’t show up for three hours. Customers cleared out quickly, and Engelhart said she was forced to close on Father’s Day. 

“On Father’s Day, I’m trying to focus on my husband and my children and giving good customer service to other families that have chosen Sage for their Father’s Day experience,” she told Fox News Digital. “These people came inside of my restaurant, harassed my customers, my employees, vandalized my restaurant and openly said they’d like to put me out of business.”

Engelhart also lamented the state of crime in Southern California, which she told Fox News Digital has made the survival of her small business difficult in recent years. 

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Mollie Engelhart and her restaurant sidewalk. (Mollie Engelhart)

Sage Plant Based Bistro became Sage Regenerative Kitchen & Brewery last month after Engelhart announced the animal-based additions on social media, sparking backlash from the vegan community. Since May 29, Sage has been serving products like beef, bison, cheese and eggs. 

In an Earth Day Instagram message, Engelhart explained the restaurant’s menu would shift its focus to foods grown using regenerative agricultural methods, an approach to farming that prioritizes soil health, biodiversity and natural processes, according to the Regenerative Farmers of America.

“I believe that there’s other places that they could put their passion,” she told Fox News Digital. “There are more pressing issues than my restaurant. This is all very disappointing. We are a small family business trying to make it. California is the hardest place to do business.”

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Vegan protesters outside Sage Regenerative Kitchen & Brewery

Vegan protesters outside Sage Regenerative Kitchen & Brewery. (Mollie Engelhart)

“Friday night, there was a stabbing right outside the restaurant,” Engelhart said. “The neighborhood already feels chaotic and scary without this added stress. It’s illegal what these people are doing, harassing guests and staff inside the restaurant, and the police did not show up for three hours.”

After customers cleared out because of the protesters, Engelhart said she was forced to close and send her staff home. She said police never show up in response to crimes in the area.

“It’s so, so disappointing to have no support from the city, but this is not new,” she said. “On Mother’s Day, a man got fully nude and screaming, and the cops never came. Just a social worker for the ‘distressed un-housed person,’ but the cops never come.”

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Engelhart said the restaurant’s neighborhood, Echo Park, is riddled with crime. She and her family sold their farm in California and were forced to flee the state during COVID. They now run a ranch in Texas and visit California to check up on the restaurants she still owns in the city.  

“We’ve come full circle,” she told Fox News Digital. “When I moved into the neighborhood of Echo Park, there was a lot of crime, but there was order, and then the neighborhood got very expensive and beautiful and saw a lot of investment.”

“Now we’ve gone back to a lot of crime,” Engelhart continued. “Two of the three drug stores in the neighborhood have gone out of business because of theft. My building is half empty and the block is half empty.”

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Fox News reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department for comment.