Thursday, February 09, 2012

Clifton's Cafeteria Gets Its Old Facade Back

(Photo by Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

You may remember back in October that we noticed how the new owner of Clifton's Cafeteria was removing the aluminum siding that had hidden the building's original facade since 1963. Now, it's all down -- with a promise of a major restoration to come.

The L.A. Times' Bob Pool has the details:

There were a few murmurs from a crowd of roughly 200 spectators as work crews lifted a huge tarp and revealed that many of the building's original windows were filled in with ugly concrete blocks.

Not to worry, said [Andrew] Meieran, who acquired the downtown cafeteria in 2010 from the Clinton family for $3.6 million.

As soon as seismic upgrades are completed, the concrete blocks — installed for earthquake safety in 1988 — will be removed. Glass panes will replace the blocks and natural light will again flood into the cafeteria's famous redwood forest-themed dining room, he said.

Meieran, a Hollywood filmmaker and developer of the downtown subterranean night club, The Edison, plans to retain the cafeteria's signature redwood tree columns, its kitschy fireplace, mountain cabin accessories and the rock-hewn chapel with its diorama and 4-minute narration that suggests "redwoods were God's first temple."

But Meieran, who lives in the Hollywood Hills and celebrated his 45th birthday Wednesday, said he was spending another $3.5 million or so to modernize the cafeteria's kitchen, install a new serving line and create mezzanine lounge areas and a fourth-floor "treetops" tiki bar. A bakery and offices will occupy the top floor.

Repairs will also be made to the colorful terrazzo sidewalk outside the cafeteria. The walkway is decorated with various Southern California scenes from the mid-1930s.

The cafeteria will reopen to the public when renovations are completed in about 18 months, Meieran said. It will employ about 100 people and feature an updated menu along with classic cafeteria fare. He said he was also eyeing serving food around the clock.

Here's how Clifton's Brookdale (as it is officially known) originally looked:

And here's a pic I took in October, when the old facade started to peek out:

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