Los Angeles entrepreneur, Andrew Meieran, joined Councilmember José Huizar, Robert Clinton, owner of Clifton’s Cafeteria, and Linda Dishman, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, to announce future plans for the iconic Clifton’s Cafeteria at 648 S. Broadway now that Meieran, owner of The Edison, recently purchased the business.
“We feel honored to be a part of the Clifton’s legacy and the history it represents and are working closely with Bringing Back Broadway and the Conservancy to ensure Clifton’s iconic tribute to American idealism, hope and imagination will be preserved and enjoyed for generations to come,” said Meieran, who intends to maintain the cafeteria’s integral role in providing service to the economically, culturally and socially diverse neighborhood – both day and night. “We hope the venue will once again help establish Broadway as a nightlife destination and will help bring life to Broadway after dark.”
Meieran described plans to restore much of the cafeteria to its original condition, and maintain historic elements while updating building systems, infrastructure, disabled access, restrooms and services. Specifics of the plan include maintaining cafeteria-style food service (with an updated menu) on the ground floor during day and evening hours, complemented by the conversion of currently underutilized upper-floor space to provide a nightlife destination in the form of a neighborhood lounge with sit-down restaurant service. Meieran also plans to reactivate Clifton’s top-floor commercial bakery and offer fresh baked breads and pastries under the Clifton’s brand. The work will be done without closing cafeteria doors as the restoration proceeds – similar to the way Clifford Clinton originally converted the building from the Boos Brother’s Cafeteria in 1935.
Meieran explained that his intention with Clifton’s – the same as was his intention for The Edison when it was being developed – is to retain the building’s iconic character and build upon its historic fabric and unique design with the future in mind.
“Historic preservation is not about pressing the pause button indefinitely, but about finding ways to honor the wonderful history that makes Broadway so special, while utilizing our historic buildings and businesses in innovative ways that allow them to be successful and vital into the next generation, while serving our diverse community,” said City Councilmember José Huizar, initiator of the Bringing Back Broadway revitalization plan.
Huizar explained there is currently a 15 – 20% vacancy rate on the ground floor along Broadway, with more than 1 million square feet of commercial space in the upper floors of Broadway’s buildings, producing no jobs, no revenues, and doing little to support revitalization or support Downtown’s success.
“Today, we celebrate because Clifton’s is reversing that statistic,” Councilmember Huizar said.
Born from the uncertainty and need of the Great Depression, Clifton’s Cafeterias became retreats from the harsh economic realities of 1930s America. Clifford Clinton, founded Los Angeles’ premier cafeteria chain on the premise that people should conduct their business according to their conscience, not their pocket book. A unique blend of fantasy architecture and social activism, Clifton’s Cafeterias represented the best of American entrepreneurship and imagination.
The much beloved Broadway location, originally known as Clifton’s Brookdale, was designed to resemble a redwood glen similar to those frequented by Clifford Clinton when he was growing up in Monterey, California. The whimsical design originally included a wishing well, limeade springs and a mechanical sherbet geyser. Surviving original elements that helped create the magical setting include a small chapel, full size faux redwood trees and a waterfall that meanders its way through the dining room.
Meieran’s restoration and renovation process, which will focus on preservation of character-defining elements of both the interior and exterior, will culminate in his desire to nominate Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria for designation as a Los Angeles Cultural Monument and have it registered on state and national registries of historic places. Meieran plans to work with the Los Angeles Conservancy on these efforts.
“The Los Angeles Conservancy is thrilled with the announcement that Clifton’s will continue operating under new ownership,” said Linda Dishman, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Conservancy. “Clifton’s is one of the great touchstones in L.A. and we look forward to working with Andrew Meieran on this project.”
In addition to focus on community service, business development and historic preservation, Meieran explained job preservation and job creation is a main priority for the project. Meieran’s goal is to retain the existing 65 Clifton’s associates while also creating at least 100 additional positions as business hours expand and nightlife components are added. He intends to take advantage of numerous business and tax incentives available to Broadway businesses, and develop partnerships for employing local workers from underserved communities.