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Car crashes into Harry’s Coffee Shop in La Jolla; three injured

A car crashed into the rear of Harry's Coffee Shop on May 12, injuring three people.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Three people were injured when a car crashed into the restrooms and kitchen at the rear of Harry’s Coffee Shop in La Jolla just before 10 a.m. May 12.

Two of the injured people, an older couple inside the car, were taken to a hospital. The extent of their injuries is unknown, according to Battalion Chief Erik Windsor of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

The third injured person, a kitchen employee, was standing at the sink washing dishes when the vehicle hit the wall, pushing the sink and other kitchen equipment into the employee. Windsor said the worker suffered minor bumps and bruises and declined to go a hospital and was instead treated at the scene and released.

A man driving this vehicle mistook the gas pedal for the brake, causing it to crash into the rear of Harry's Coffee Shop.
A man driving this vehicle mistook the gas pedal for the brake, causing it to crash into the rear of Harry’s Coffee Shop at 7545 Girard Ave.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The man driving the vehicle mistook the gas pedal for the brake, causing it to propel into the building at 7545 Girard Ave., Windsor said.

Harry’s Coffee Shop is owned by John Rudolph, son of the late Harry Rudolph, who started the establishment in 1960.

James Rudolph, John’s brother, said the restaurant “was pretty packed” at the time of the crash. “You can see all the food left out on the counter,” he said.

Server Iliana Rodriguez estimated 30 people were inside. She said she was taking an order in front of the restaurant when the car crashed into it. “We heard an explosion, like an earthquake,” she said, adding that the entire building shook.

“I went right to the back,” Rodriguez said. A regular customer who had exited the restroom moments before the crash told her to call 911. Rodriguez made the call.

“It was really scary,” she said.

The vehicle that crashed into Harry's Coffee Shop is towed from the scene the morning of May 12.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

When fire crews arrived on the scene, they smelled gas, Windsor said, prompting them to call SDG&E and secure the gas meters and electrical boxes in the alley. Firefighters evacuated Harry’s and adjacent buildings.

Once the gas lines were secured, Windsor said, the adjacent businesses were allowed to reopen, though Harry’s will be closed for days, until structural engineers deem the building safe.

San Diego County health inspectors also will need to “recertify the kitchen for doing business,” Windsor said.

Windsor said he was unable to estimate the cost of the damage to the building, though he guessed it would be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“One little car into a building causes a lot of mayhem,” he said. “They’re going to have to rebuild that whole side of the restaurant.”

A GoFundMe campaign begun May 13 aims to raise $10,000 to help Harry’s with the cost of rebuilding and covering its employees’ lost wages. As of May 14, the campaign had raised $500. The page is at gofund.me/6bd39058. ◆