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June 1, 2020

Black-Owned Burger Joint in LA Closes Doors After 52 Years in Business

Bernard's Burgers in Los Angeles

Bernard's Burgers, a Black-owned burger stand in South Central, Los Angeles, has closed its doors for good after 52 years in service. The current owner, 69-year old Nathan Murray, decided to close the business partly due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as his retiring age.
In 1958, Bernard's Burgers was established by Herman Matfield, a retired Navy cook. It was then turned over to Octane Bernard, who eventually became a father figure to Murray. Ever since Murray occupied the house behind Bernard's in 1993, he really wanted to work at the burger stand. But Bernard would not let him until one day when he had to be hospitalized.

"I ran the business for 11 days," Murray told L.A. Taco. "He didn't know I was running the business though. When I picked him up from the hospital I gave him the money."

Murray became the third owner of Bernard's Burger after Bernard sold it to him for $500 in 1999. Since then, he became the overall manager of the business while serving as the cook and cashier. He did not change the business name so that was also when people started calling him Bernard.

Fast forward to today, Murray had to do the bittersweet decision to close the burger stand. He has been really planning to retire but the coronavirus pandemic pushed him to decide sooner. Loyal customers showed interest in taking over the property to continue the business' legacy, but Murray wanted to retire the name as well.

Several customers came to the burger stand and fell in line to taste the iconic burger for the last time. Greg Shepard, a frequent customer who became friends with since 2002, said Bernard's Burgers is "the best hamburger place in Los Angeles" and described Murray as someone who has "a good rapport with the community."

For 20 years, Shain'na Kato has been coming to the burger stand to grab a burger as well as listen to Murray's advice and stories on owning and operating a business. Now that it is closing permanently, Kato said, "it saddens me for the simple fact there are a lot of business owners who are now being pushed out in order for these other businesses to come in and flourish."