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Last updated: May 13, 2009

Latest News

More Construction at the Broiler (May 14)

05.19.09 Downey, CA - Here are more construction photos from the site of the new Bob's Big Boy Broiler. As you can see, things are just humming along as work continues to make the new Broiler a reality.

Welding activity underway at the Bob's Big Boy Broiler in Downey on May 14, 2009
Downey, CA
Photo courtesy Adriene Biondo

 

Broiler sign
Downey, CA
Photo courtesy Adriene Biondo

 

To the right is a shot of the new brush script lettering for the "broiler" portion of the new marquee

Below are many more photos taken on May 14, 2009. Many thanks to Adriene Biondo for the continual updates from the site and for these photos.

See all of the Bob's Big Boy Broiler construction photos and updates here.

History

Downey, CA - Johnie's Broiler has been a Downey landmark for almost 50 years. Its first 8 years were run under its well remembered name Harvey's Broiler, named after its original owner Harvey Ortner. In 1966, its current owner Christos "Johnnie" Smyrniotis purchased the property from Ortner in 1966 and changed the name to Johnie's Broiler. It has remained Johnie's Broiler since.

 

 

 

Is the Sun Setting on Johnie's?
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

In 2001, the coffee shop/car hop closed down and proceeded to convert into a used car lot a year later. When the changeover to the used car lot occurred, much of the interior of Johnie's was destroyed. But the building, carhop area, and sign remained.

 

After tremendous support from the Friends of Johnie's as well as the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee, the California Historic Resources Commission voted unanimously to include Johnie's Broiler in the Register of Historic Places. Placement is contingent on the property owner's support and agreement, which was not received from the Smyrniotis.

The neon lit up during happier times
Photo courtesy Adriene Biondo

 

According to the January 8, 2007 issue of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Smyrniotis' lessee filed a request in October 2006 to tear down the building with plans for a small retail strip center. The request was denied due to deficiencies, including the lack of an environmental impact report.

 

Balloons marked the opening of the Car Outlet Inc used car dealership
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

 

 

Then 2007 began on a sour note. On January 7, 2007, a couple of bulldozers suddenly appeared on site and started razing the carhop area and structure. By the time alert citizens contacted the authorities, it was too late. The carhop and a good portion of the restaurant area had already been demolished. The police stopped the demolition due to lack of permit. According to the January 9, 2007 Press-Telegram, numerous possible OSHA violations occurred. "According to police reports, the gas and electricity were not switched off at the time of the razing nor was the area fenced off from the general public, creating an unsafe environment for bulldozing contractors."

 

Johnie's, partially demolished on January 7, 2007
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

For those who stood by the remains of Johnie's the evening of January 7, 2007, the smell of the demo was undeniable and unforgettable. The sign still stood, strong as ever as it faced Firestone Blvd defiantly. But the aura of sadness permeated the air, as residents, fans of Johnie's, and onlookers stared at the what was left, trying to understand and determine whether this was now farewell.

Memories

Many current and former residents remember both Harvey's and Johnie's Broiler fondly. One patron remembers cruising Harvey's in 1960-1963 after graduating from Lynwood High in '63 and tasting the hot chocolate on a cold night and even the gravy fries. She remembers doing "the cruise" which was a roundabout from Long Beach Blvd and Compton Blvd, taking them from Jerry's BBQ north to South Gate "where we would end up at the donut show on Tweedy Blvd." They would then make their way to A&W at Tweedy and Atlantic. Then everybody headed for Harvey's.

Just added: Johnie's Broiler Comments and Memories from the many notes that have been sent in since the demolition.

Call to Action

Here are the email addresses to members of the Downey City Council. Recommendation is to send a copy to the Downey City Clerk for record keeping. Source: LottaLiving.com

Council
abayer@downeyca.org
dgafin@downeyca.org
kcartozi@downeyca.org
rtrejo@downeyca.org
mguerra@downeyca.org

City Clerk
kmidstok@downeyca.org

Past Events

Bob's Big Boy Broiler Construction Continues

03.15.09 Downey, CA - The rebuilding of Johnie's Broiler to the new Bob's Big Boy Broiler continues with completion scheduled for August 2009, barring unforeseen issues.

Here are photos from the 2ndAnniversary Cruise on January 11, 2009 which remembered the two year anniversary of the illegal demolition. Jim Louder allowed the attendees a final look at the site before construction began and Kevin Preciado organized the event.

Johnie's 2nd Anniversary Cruise
Photo courtesy Adriene Biondo

See here for more photos from the event courtesy Adriene Biondo. Many additional photos of the event can also be found at the Jalopy Journal.

Many thanks to Adriene Biondo for update.

07.20.08 - Check out the photos from the Monday morning, July 7th, 2008 kick off of the "clean-up" Johnie's Broiler.

 

Johnie's Broiler Clean-up
Photo courtesy Adriene Biondo

 

 

05.05.08 Torrance, CA - Congratulations to Adriene Biondo, Analisa, and Kevin Preciado for winning the California Preservation Foundation President's Award at the foundation's conference in Napa in late April for their tireless work on Johnie's Broiler. Well deserved!

 

Analisa, Kevin, and Adriene with the award outside of Bob's Big Boy Torrance
Photo courtesy John Eng

04.20.08 Downey, CA - From a first hand account, the 50th Anniversary Celebration was a success. The new owner of the coming Bob's Big Boy Jim Louder, Adriene Biondo Chair of the MODCOM, as well as many friendly folks from the Friends of Johnie's and locals joined in the celebration of both Johnie's 50th Anniversary and the recent good news that Bob's Big Boy has signed a long term lease. According to Bob's owner Jim Louder, every attempt will be made to keep as much of the huge landmark marquee intact while the change over to Bob's Big Boy signage is made.

See photos from the celebration here.

In addition, here's a link to yesterday's KPCC 89.3 Off Ramp broadcast. Adriene Biondo is interviewed announcing the news about Bob's rebuilding Johnie's. http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/

04.17.2008 - The Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee, together with the Friend's of Johnie's and the Coalition to Rebuilt the Broiler, has announced a classic car cruise to celebrate Johnie's 50th anniversary and the news that Bob's Big Boy is coming to town. Please see the flyer below for more details.

Thanks to Adriene Biondo for information. modcom.org

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04.10.2008 - The news is official that Johnie's Broiler in Downey will now be replaced by Bob's Big Boy. A long term lease has been agreed upon between Bob's Big Boy and Johnie's owner Smyrniotis, 15 months after a saga that began when Johnie's was illegally partially demolished by a lessee. A historic preservation consultant has been hired to determine what pieces of Johnie's are still salvageable, including the fat boy sign. More information can be found at the Press Telegram's article.

Good news and many thanks from all Harvey's and Johnie's Broiler fans to those who helped make this happen and keep the spirit of Johnie's alive, including the Friends of Johnie's, the Coalition to Rebuild Harvey's, and the Modern Committee of the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Many thanks to Adriene Biondo for the alert to this update as well as her tireless efforts working with the local preservation groups, city officials, and the public towards this successful outcome.

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02.25-2008 - The Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee (MODCOM) just sent out an action alert that MODCOM, Friends of Johnie's, and The Coalition to Rebuild the Broiler are announcing that Bob's Big Boy is in negotiations to rebuild Johnie's Broiler.

According to the alert, MODCOM receive an official announcement from City of Downey that Bob's and the owner of Johnie's are working to come to terms to rebuild this 1958 landmark.

Your attendance is being requested at a Downey City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 7:30pm

Downey City Hall
11111 Brookshire Avenue
Downey, CA 90241
(562)904-7274

Here is the action alert from MODCOM. If questions, please contact Adriene Biondo, chair of the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee or call (818)943-6621.

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According to multiple reports, the Ghost Cruise for Harvey's Broiler on February 25, 2007 was a success. Almost 40 cars cruised from the starting point at Bob's Big Boy in the morning and other joined in during the various stops on the way to Johnie's/Harvey's Broiler. Given the short notice and cold weather, an estimated turnout of 80 participants was a phenomenal showing.

Just added: Photos from the Ghost Cruise, courtesy of John Eng.

Many thanks to Adriene Biondo for update

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The Friends of Johnie's in coordination with the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee, support of local Southland car clubs, and outraged citizens staged a "Black Sunday Cruise-in" on Sunday, Jan 14th from 3:30pm to 5:30pm which is the exact time the illegal demolition occurred.  Many classic cars arrived to cruise around the block.

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According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram article, the City Council expressed outrage at a Downey City Council meeting on Tuesday 01/09/07, and vowed to take action against those responsible for the illegal demolition. Many residents were present at the crowded council chambers and spoke up in favor of preserving what's left of Johnie's and/or rebuilding the coffee shop as well as expressed outrage at the events of January 7.

More Photos

Here is a gallery of Johnie's photos.

 

A view from the Back end of Johnie's
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

The Car Hop Area
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

The demolition was halted prior to the wall facing Firestone Blvd
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

What's left of the entranceway
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

The community mourning the wreckage
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

The venerable sign still standing amidst the destruction
Photo by RoadsidePeek.com

 

Other Info

The Friends of Johnie's
The Coalition to Save Harvey's Broiler
The H.A.M.B.
CBS Channel 2 News video clip of breaking news. See Channel 2's video clip here
LottaLiving.com has a message thread dedicated to this topic that's growing quickly
JohniesBroiler.com is a new site that has been launched by a Downey resident
Whittier Daily News : Restaurant's razing may spur legal action. 1/10/07
Curbed LA : CurbedWire. 01/10/07
NBC4TV article: Downey Officials To Sue Over Demolition Of 50's Diner. 01/10/07
Long Beach Press Telegram: Downey Vows Action on Diner. 01/09/07 10:35pm
Long Beach Press Telegram article: A Landmark In Ruins. 01/08/07 11:00pm
NBC4TV article: Preservationists Cry Foul Over Demolition Of 1950's Diner. 01/08/07 08:41am
CBS2.com : Retro Diner Torn Apart In Downey. 01/08/07 12:33am
Long Beach Press Telegram: Downey landmark unexpectedly razed. 01/08/07 12:03am

 

 

 

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© Copyright 1998-2013 Syd Nagoshi. All rights reserved. No portion of this document may be reproduced, copied or revised without written permission of the author.