Andrew Meieran's New Clifton's Cafeteria: 4 Bars and an Appearance by Ray Bradbury
Last year, science fiction author Ray Bradbury celebrated his 89th birthday at Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria on 7th and Broadway, a place where he, along with sci-fi writer/memorabilia collector Forrest Ackerman, founded the Science Fiction Society, which met weekly on the restaurant's second floor during the Great Depression. Bradbury has said that he wanted to not only rebuild Broadway but to revive the cafeteria as well.
Caroline on Crack The Edison's Andrew Meieran standing before Clifton's artifacts.
Cut to a year later and he got his wish. Andrew Meieran, owner of the downtown bar, the Edison, took out a 50-year lease (10 years with four 10-year options, with an option to buy) on the restaurant and, before the end of this year, will throw a "Welcome Back, Broadway" celebration which will include an appearance by Bradbury himself.
Meieran will not only restart Clifton's commercial bakery business and retain the cafeteria, as mentioned in his press conference last month , but he'll build bars into the space. No specifics had been released about his plans.
Until now, when Meieran granted us a tour of the five-level space, from basement to the fourth-floor bakery, and shared details for the new and improved Clifton's.
Family owned and run since 1935, the last remaining Clifton's of the restaurant chain is a treasured relic of Los Angeles history, hearkening back to a time when this family of missionaries employed a golden rule of "pay what you can," a life-saver to those hard hit by the Depression.
Caroline on Crack Clifton's eery Red Room on the second floor will be the main bar.
When asked how he convinced the family to trust him with their legacy, Meieran said, "Initially [the Clintons weren't] going to give it to anybody outside of the family. They were in the cafeteria business since 1888. A 120-year legacy being handed to someone outside the family. So we talked about what the plans were and how I was going to respect the place."
A fan of L.A. history as evidenced in his transformation of the Higgins building space that houses the Edison and even his own Hollywood home, which originally belonged to Charlie Chaplin, Meieran threw himself into researching the restaurant, poring over old pictures and stories, even interviewing longtime patrons.
"To me it's recycling history," Meieran said. "You're taking the parts and putting them in this new context and then you're refurbishing the parts that are worn out and you're adding things in the spirit of what was here. With that you can do some amazing things and I can't understand why people take something historic that has its own apparent beauty or interest and they gut that."
How did the Clintons take his plans to incorporate bars into their restaurant which has been dry since it first opened in the 1930s? "They were accepting and they said it's a clever way to use the space and it needs to be utilized. But it's more a sense they know and they want it to live. And economically they're very wise. This is the way to make it so that it's a viable business, and they recognize that."
Caroline on Crack Meieran with the ancient industrial mixers in the 4th floor bakery.
Meieran will build in not just one speakeasy bar but two: a small, tiki-themed one in the basement and another on the third floor which can be accessed via a hidden entrance located on the main floor. He said, "This place has to have some mystery to it. You can't find all the spaces in one trip. 'Wait a minute there was a what? I didn't see that!'"