THIS IS THE MOMENT WE'VE ALL BEEN WAITING & WORKING FOR!!!!!!!
Bob's Big Boy to replace Johnie's
By Samantha Gonzaga, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 04/08/2008 09:38:41 PM PDT
DOWNEY - Fifteen months after an illegal demolition, a year-long building Moratorium and well- attended classic-car cruises in its honor, Johnie's Broiler is being resurrected as a Bob's Big Boy.
Torrance Bob's Big Boy owner Jim Louder confirmed that there is a long-term lease agreement between he and Johnie's owner Christos "Johnie" Smyrniotis.
"We're moving ahead with our plans," Louder said. "And we have a lot of work to do to get to this construction stage and whatnot, but I'm hoping to be able to start with the demolition fairly soon."
Johnie's Broiler, 7447 Firestone Blvd., was illegally bulldozed in January 2007 by Smyrniotis' lessee, Ardas Yanik. Yanik, who has since apologized for the razing, was subleasing to a used car dealership.
Since its demolition, local groups such as Friends of Johnie's and Coalition to Rebuild Harvey's organized cruises in hopes of attracting investors willing to rebuild the Googie-style drive-through.
The site was originally a Harvey's Broiler owned by Harvey Ortner, who opened it in 1958. It was bought by Smyrniotis in 1966 and renamed Johnie's. At the height of its popularity and business, Johnie's was a major spot for hot-rodders and car enthusiasts, with a facility that accommodated up to 350 parked vehicles and offered car service for 98.
In December, city leaders decided not to extend the site's development moratorium. Instead, an agreement was drawn between the city and Smyrniotis, stating that any future developments at the site would be overseen by the city.
It also made Smyrniotis responsible for reimbursing the city's $25,000 cost of hiring a historic preservation consultant to evaluate and determine which of Johnie's remaining architectural elements are still salvageable. Among the survivors was the drive-through's famous "Fat Boy" sign.
Adriene Biondo - whose nonprofit organization has consulted with the city - considered news of the new lease agreement in a different light.
"I feel like (Louder)'s making history with these first steps to reconstruct the Broiler," she said.
Biondo praised city officials for putting a moratorium on the 90,000- square-foot site. Although Downey doesn't have a historic preservation ordinance in place, the City Council's decision to respond to community concerns contributed to conservation efforts, she said.
"It's very rare for a city to do that," Biondo said of the moratorium and the city's involvement in Johnie's post-demolition affairs. "If they hadn't left the building alone, we wouldn't be able to do that (salvage architectural pieces)."
Downey Deputy City Manager Gilbert Livas said the next step for Johnie's would be a clean-up of the site, an undertaking that falls under Louder's financial responsibility.
The appropriate permits have yet to be pulled, he said.