Bob's Big Boy To Rebuild Illegally Demolished Googie Diner
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Apr. 10, 2008
A 1950s Googie diner in Downey, Calif., may rise from the ashes. After most of Johnie's Broiler was illegally demolished in January 2007, the city of Downey and Johnie's many fans vowed to rebuild the drive-in restaurant. Bob's Big Boy has volunteered to do just that.
According to the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee, the owner of a Bob's Big Boy in nearby Torrance, Jim Louder, has signed a long-term lease for the site and plans to reconstruct the drive-in restaurant that disappeared 15 months ago. The franchise plans to restore the Broiler's signature Z-shaped sign and salvage other parts of the partially demolished building. In a nod to the 1950s, Bob's Big Boy will offer carhop service.
"It's really exciting," says Adriene Biondo, chair of the conservancy's Modern Committee. "I really have to applaud [Jim's] vision and the city for leaving it standing long enough to find an operator that has a vision. Another city might have cleared the site."
Johnie's stopped serving burgers in 2001, when it became a car dealership. Without a demolition permit, lessee Ardas Yanik razed the restaurant after the city denied his request to tear down Johnie's, a state landmark, for a strip mall. In response, the city filed three misdemeanor charges against Yanik (he pleaded no contest) and placed an unusual moratorium on building on the site. The city has also levied a $25,000 fine against Yanik to cover the cost of salvaging elements from the pile of debris that was Johnie's Broiler.
"I've been on site many times with contractors and structural engineers, and they feel they can retain a large portion of the front and the side [of Johnie's]," Biondo says. Although Bob's Big Boy plans to restore the famous facade, the chain will likely change the signature "fat boy" sign.
For updates, visit Johnie's Broiler online.
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