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Johnie's Broiler/Harvey's Broiler/Bob's Big Boy Broiler

Posted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:37 pm
by Synthetrix
I just saw on Fox 11 KTTV's 10 p.m. news a story on Johnny's and evidently they just went ahead and continued tearing down most of what was left without pulling any demo permits. It did look like the signage was still somewhat intact. What a shame.


~ title edited by futura girl on 2-19-2008

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:34 am
by Adriene
It's shocking, as if a plane crashed into it. This is a serious crime, the illegal demolition of a historic 1958 Googie drive-in restaurant declared eligible for the California State Register.

It's extremely important that we express our outrage at the next city council meeting this Tuesday, January 9th:

7:30 p.m.
in the Council Chamber of
Downey City Hall
11111 Brookshire Avenue
Downey, CA 90241

To see tonight's CBS-2 Breaking News coverage of Johnie's and photos of the destruction, go to: ... /index.htm

Thanks to Syd at Roadside Peek for posting all the updates and photos (in the middle of the night!).

Johnie's Broiler closed on New Year's Eve 2001 and has been an ongoing issue since -- thank you all for supporting Johnie's over the years at the many Friends of Johnie's fundraising events, rallies, vintage car shows, and our Blasters concert.

City Council Email address.

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 8:10 am
by retrocool
Hi Everyone,

On this sad Monday morning Jan 8, 2007. As you have heard and seen on the news Johnie's Broiler has been partially bulldozed. There were no demo permits pulled so this was an illigal operation. We need a lot of support at the Downey City Council Meeting Tuesday Jan 9, 7:30 PM. Please attend this meeting and let your voice be heard. If you can't make it please email your responses to the Downey City Council. Here are there address. If you email please send a copy to the city clerk so that it will be officially recorded in the record.

Thanks for your support,


City Clerk

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 8:12 am
by Lynxwiler
Try this link to see footage of the horribly, illegally demolished sight.

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 8:17 am
by nichols

Our MODCOM chair Adriene was there on the scene immediately. She helped the Downey folks stop the illegal demo but it's so very bad. It really was like a plane crash. The demo crew didn't even put up a fence - no asbestos abatement - nothing. Just moved the cars over a few feet and started pushing it over.



Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 9:00 am
by modfan
seems illegal when they do it at night.
Kinda wondered, if not fenced or whatever, any way someone could just grab the signage away from the site and at least save that?

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:33 am
by bluecherub
It seems illegal? It WAS ILLEGAL! I was there with Adriene. We rushed to the scene as soon as we heard. About 1/4 of the building is still intact, the big sign is still up and the very front right corner. The neon could still be saved and this part of the building probably could be stabilized and then intergraded into any new structure built onto the site. Preservation aside, Hell... you can't even build a storage shed larger than 8'X8' square, or tear one down in LA without pulling a permit! What gives them the right to tear down a state nominated landmark, that they don't even own, without a permit?! The demolition was carried out by the current TENNANTS of the place, a used car dealership. They just took it upon themselves to do this. The property owner declines to comment but also claims to not have had any prior knowledge of it :wink: , we are very suspicious of him though.
Other issues are at stake, public safety and health code violations. We noticed a strong pungent musty smell emanating from the rubble as well as dust clouds or plumes of smoke. Most old buildings, especially Mid-Century structures must go threw an asbestos abatement search and permitting process before demolition, this was not preformed. The sign could have fallen onto Firestone blvd during demolition and debris were found on the sidewalks as well as in the far right lane of Firestone causing the police to shut down the lane! There was a question as to if the gas lines were properly disconnected and if power and water were cut! The demolition people put up only a strip of CAUTION TAPE as a boundary for passers by. No protective fencing was used and any child or vagrant could have been playing or wandering around it , during and after the demolition!
This crew was decisively unprofessional; perhaps the perpetrators just rented the bulldozer themselves and went to Home Depot to get an illegal driver for it?! They did the demo, surreptitiously on a Sunday evening, starting at 3:00 pm, using a back how and bulldozer to simply tear at the building. The steel skeleton of the building is partly intact as they must of found that they couldn't simply push it down. Usually building inspectors must review a pending demolition before it occurs to see the safest way to proceeded without causing a hazardous collapse. Licensed and educated demolition crews decide if they must weaken supporting beams by torch, cutting in precise places so that they can be disassembled easily or implode onto themselves rather than twist or fall haphazardly onto the street. The police noted that when they drove up to the site, the crew just fled the scene abandoning their equipment. According to repots, one straggler was accosted and said to an officer " The Conservancy lost it's right to the ownership and preservation of the building"! So it appears to have been done with spiteful intent directed at US! The LA Modernism Preservation Community!

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:35 am
by Synthetrix
That sneaky )(@#%)($. I hope he is penalized for the destruction of this landmark.

What were they thinking?

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:36 am
by khummer
A - you did a great job on Channel 2 this morning! There should be some jail time for these folks. They'll probably get the ole slap on the hand, and walk away with a don't do this again. I am so so so sad.

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:47 am
by MD²

Flowers to Harvey's/Johnie's

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 4:02 pm
by retrocool
Hi everyone,

A friend of mine at work today, mentioned that she was going to bring flowers and a candle down to Johnie's broiler and place them at the corner. If anyone wants to join in, it sounds like a great idea.


The tragic loss of Johnie's and its criminal owner.

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 4:55 pm
by Lynxwiler
Januray 8, 2007

To City Council of Downey, California:

To say I am upset about the illegal demolition of Johnie's Broiler is an understatement.

Johnie's was an architecturally intact and working restaurant as of 2001, but today it is rubble. Even as Johnie's careless owner chipped away at the building year by year, the fame and cultural importance of it kept it eligible for the California State Register. Thousands of people are in mourning as the relevance of Downey's loss and the despicable actions of Johnie's owner, Christos John Smyrniotis, stretches from coast to coast.

What will happen to this semi-demolished building now? In recompense for this dangerous and illegal demolition, could the coffee shop and Johnie's neon signage be salvaged and restored on the owner's dime? Shouldn't he be made to restore this public ruin and nationally-mourned landmark?

The owner of this property committed a heinous and unforgivable crime and he must be punished fully and harshly. The City Council of Downey must sufficiently punish this criminal, Smyrniotis, for his careless and selfish act or the crime will fall on your shoulders and resonate to other Downey landowners who may also follow suit with more illegal demolitions.

Smyrniotis knew he owned a true and historic gem that was admired by thousands of Americana and architecture fans, but he nonetheless broke the law and destroyed it by illegal means. I implore you to take severe action—Save Johnie's and punish Smyrniotis.

J. Eric Lynxwiler

The Los Angeles Conservancy
The Modern Committee
The Museum of Neon Art

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 5:53 pm
by Lynxwiler
Write those emails 'cause Downey is listening!


Dear Mr. Lynxwiler,

Thank you for your concerns.

The rule of law was broken today and this cannot stand. I am very upset
that anybody could do what has happened, and then under the cover of a
weekend when they thought nobody was watching.

Our City has started an investigation today and I want to make sure that
all laws are enforced in our City. Public safety was also dis-regarded
and our laws were circumvented for personal gain. This will not stand
and this cannot happen again.

Thank you for sharing your concerns and please know that we are just as
upset as you are and that appropriate action will be taken to those who
have broken the law.

Dn. Mario A. Guerra
City of Downey
11111 Brookshire Ave.
Downey, Ca. 90241


Mr. Lynxwiler,

I am in complete agreement with your disgust in this issue. Please be assured that we will prosecute the offenders to the fullest extent possible under the law.

David Gafin
Downey City Council


Mr. Lynxwiler

Thank you for your email and voice of concern. Like you, I am very angry about how this was done in a calculated and undermining way to circumvent the city's process and procedure. I assure you that I will pursue this action aggressively against the responsible parties. My intent is to not only require the payment of appropriate fines but also to require the property owner to rebuild this landmark. Anything less is not sufficient.


Kirk Cartozian
City Councilmember
City of Downey
11111 Brookshire Avenue, 3rd Floor
Downey, CA 90241
562-904-7274 (office)
562-923-6388 (fax)

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 8:04 pm
by nichols

Don't forget that Johnie's is on the cover of Googie Redux.

Downey Historical Society

Posted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:51 pm
by retrocool
Don't forget Alan Hess will be presenting at the Downey Historical Society Meeting January 25, 2007. For more info see the post on this message board. I bet he will have something to say about Johnie's


Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 8:03 am
by nichols

Johnie's Broiler is cooked, to longtime fans' dismay
In Downey, the former drive-in restaurant, one of the few remaining examples of Googie architecture, falls victim to an illegal demolition.

By Valerie Reitman, Times Staff Writer
January 9, 2007

Helen Burns got word Sunday that something seemed fishy at Johnie's Broiler, the iconic roadside 1950s drive-in where she had cruised her green metallic Ford perhaps thousands of times in her youth... ... &cset=true

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 11:33 am
by bluecherub
My replys from my email to Downey:

The rule of law was broken today and this cannot stand. The illegal demolition and dis-regard for public safety will be a big part of the investigation that was started this morning. This is wrong and it will not go un-punished.

I am very upset that somebody could take it upon themselves to do this and we will prosecute to the intent of the laws we will be dealing with. Please know that we all share your concerns and your voice. Thank you for taking the time to let us know your feelings.

I am just as angry as you are and many others. The rule of law was broken and it cannot, and will not go un-punished. Public safety was ignored and nobody is above the law.

We have started a criminal investigation and those responsible will be prosecuted. We will pursue those who think that they can break laws and take matters into their own hands.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns.

Dn. Mario A. Guerra


City of Downey

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 11:39 am
by bluecherub
I thought about a candle light vigil but what seems more appropriate is a all night "Cruising" circle around Johnnie's by the vintage car clubs and the vintage Hearse club! Clog up Firestone Blvd. with old cars in protest! :evil:

Cruise Downey City Hall Tonight

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:26 pm
by retrocool
Hi everyone,

How about a cruise to Downey City Hall tonight. The council meets at 7:30PM to discuss Johnie's/Harvey's Classic cars could circle the area.


Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 3:29 pm
by troyaloha
I read about this yesterday and drove down this morning camera in hand.

Approaching Johnie's eastbound, it almost looks normal until you're right upon it. I drove past and spun around on Firestone and it looked like a bomb had gone off.

I spent some time walking the site and talking to the locals who were coming by in shock to pay their respects to their beloved landmark.

One Downey bus driver even stopped to talk about the building and what a tragedy it was.

I've posted my pictures to my yahoo photo page. You may view them at: ... 2383666797

Limited permission is granted for anyone who would like to use the photos for educational purposes with proper credit.

It's just the saddest site you can imagine. I'm very glad to have happy memories of Johnie's (with many of you wacky modcommers). I especially remember spending one saturday night standing under the sign listening to the solenoids that caused the incandescent bulbs to flicker. A magical sound from our collective past now all but lost.

Amazingly, the sign is intact and savlageable! But it certainly wouldn't be the same without the rest of the structure.


Troy Aloha

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 3:47 pm
by Lynxwiler

Johnie’s Broiler owner breaks silence
By Eric Pierce, City Editor

DOWNEY--Cristos Smyrniotis, owner of the Johnie’s Broiler property in Downey, a former 1950’s style diner that was illegally demolished Sunday, called himself a victim in an exclusive interview with The Downey Patriot.

“I had no idea they were going to tear Johnie’s downâ€￾ Smyrniotis said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “The tenants did something very stupid. They created this mess themselves, tearing down the building with no permits. This is ridiculous.â€￾

Johnie’s Broiler, a former teen hotspot and popular Hollywood film location, was on its way to potential historical preservation. It was razed to near completion Sunday, outraging the community.

Downey police responded to Johnie’s, 7447 Firestone Boulevard, at approximately 5 p.m. Sunday, city officials said. Much of the structure had already been destroyed by that point, although the famous “Fat Boyâ€￾ signed remained intact.

Both the city and Downey Police Department were conducting separate investigations into the destruction. The city council will hold a special closed-door session Tuesday to discuss the incident and consider legal options, Assistant City Manager Scott Pomrehn said. A large turnout is expected.

“I’m a victim too,â€￾ Smyrniotis said. “When I waked up in the morning I used to look up and look proudly at Johnie’s and say ‘That’s my place.’ I’m sad and disappointed. You didn’t have to bulldoze that place. It wasn’t necessary.â€￾

Smyrniotis said he was sending his lawyer to Tuesday’s city council meeting on his behalf. When asked if he had spoken to his tenants regarding the demolition, he responded, “Of course,â€￾ but would not elaborate beyond that.

“I was having breakfast with my wife when I got a phone call from the Downey Fire Department,â€￾ Smyrniotis told the Patriot. “They said, ‘Are you the owner of Johnie’s Broiler?’ I said yes and they said ‘You better come down here.’ So I go down there and the police is there, the fire is there, code enforcement, media. Everybody and their mother is there. I was in shock at the destruction.â€￾

For more on this story, read Friday’s issue of The Downey Patriot.

Here's a cool site with Johnie's Memories

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:17 pm
by retrocool
Here is a cool site that I just found check it out.

Also I don't believe a word that Johnnie said. "He's the victim." And I know he wasn't having breakfast at the time. I saw him arrive the night of the destruction, he didn't look to disturbed to me. Oh yes and a couple of months ago he put in for a demo permit. I guess he really does love his building. He loves it so much hewanted it torn down.



Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 11:40 pm
by bluecherub
I agree! We were there as well. Not only did he arrive after 5PM but he seemed not at all surprised or disturbed by the demo. I wonder who called him at breakfast to tell him about the demo? It sure wasn't the fire department! Police were the first ones notified and that was at 4:00 - 4:30 PM Fire department came later.

I think he just confused the call from the tenants telling him that the demo was on as planned with the afternoon call from the cops. It a natural mistake anyone in his position would make. :wink:

Posted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 11:56 pm
by bluecherub
I found an interesting article to link on, read it.:

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 11:38 am
by nichols

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:13 pm
by Adriene
Thank you all for sending your e-mails and driving out to Downey last night!

I am so impressed with the outpouring of support -- just when we need it most. Every person who came up and spoke to us while surveying the wreckage at Johnie's over the past three days showed up at City Hall. There were not only local community residents, but out of the area supporters, classic car owners, even entire families -- one family with three children arrived wearing "REBUILD JOHNIE'S BROILER!!" t-shirts and was immediately filmed by news crews.

This is an extremely serious issue with far-reaching implications and the Conservancy and the Modern Committee will continue to apply pressure not only to press legal charges against the perpetrators of this crime, but to reconstruct Johnie's.

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:21 pm
by nichols

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:53 pm
by bluecherub
More on Christos:

City officials said longtime owner Christos "Johnie" Smyrniotis had asked city planning officials in October for permission to demolish the building and build a small retail complex on the site. In November, the city said the application wasn't complete and requested more information about how the new plans would affect the historic aspects of the property.

The 2002 preservation campaign succeeded. The property would have been included in the state Register of Historic Places after the nine-member state Historic Resources Commission unanimously approved its listing in late 2002 — except that Smyrniotis had objected (on economic grounds, he told the commission). Owner approval is required for inclusion.

Smyrniotis did not return phone calls Monday.

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:45 pm
by lasvegaslynn
Any word on what happened at the meeting last night? Was anything decided? Or will they hold off until the investigation is complete?

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:55 pm
by moderns-r-us
bluecherub wrote:I found an interesting article to link on, read it.:

This seems to be the most telling obsevation from this article!

"City vehicles blocked entrances to the parking lot. A GE truck driver who said he was supposed to deliver a portable office to the car lot, left when no one wanted to sign off on the cargo."