LOS ANGELES - The founder of a popular and iconic San Fernando Valley restaurant has died, his family announced.
Rafael "Ray" Vega, the founder of Casa Vega Restaurant in Sherman Oaks "died peacefully" on Sunday. He was 86.
He immigrated with his parents from Tijuana, Mexico with a dream of opening a restaurant in Los Angeles.
His dream came true when he, along with his parents, opened a restaurant on the historic Olvera Street in downtown LA. He then opened his own business and founded Casa Vega located on Ventura Boulevard in 1956 when he was 22-years-old.
Vega also opened numerous other businesses in California and Nevada.
The family tradition continues as his daughter, Christina "Christy" Vega, currently runs the popular eatery.
"For my entire life, whenever I walked into a room, he got so excited, smiled from ear-to-ear and always gave me the biggest hugs (never letting go.) He taught me how to work hard, laugh hard, dance up a storm, cook for your loved ones, to be a strong person and most importantly- how to have FUN," she said in a heartfelt Instagram post on her father’s passing.
Due to local coronavirus guidelines that prohibit all in-person dining, she has decided to keep the restaurant closed until indoor and outdoor dining is allowed by health officials.
Casa Vega was one of the many Los Angeles restaurants that shifted its operations outdoors to comply with COVID-19 guidelines that banned indoor dining. Now, restaurants are restricted to offering delivery and take-out services only. The policy went into effect in November and has not been lifted amid a continued surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southern California.
Casa Vega released the following statement on their decision to keep doors closed at this time:
"Unfortunately, we cannot count on our government to help small businesses so we must protect ourselves until we can rise again and do what we do best serving customers at our tables and bars."
"Ray is survived by his wife Charleen and children Kelly, Robbie and Christina. The Vega Family will continue to carry on his legacy," the family said on social media.