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Clifton's To Stay Open 24 Hours, More Renovation Details Revealed

By David Markland
Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2010, at 12:36PM
Clifton's Cafeteria Eric Richardson [Flickr]

New Clifton's Cafeteria owner Andrew Meieran examines a tray given to him by Robert Clinton in commemoration of his purchase.

A revitalized Clifton's Cafeteria will soon be open for business 24 hours a day, according to new owner Andrew Meieran.

An expanded menu will focus on comfort food, adding several items from the restaurant's collection of recipes dating back to the 1930s. The large commercial bakery on the building's top floor will also be revitalized and reactivated, and Meieran said this morning that he hopes to see it supply baked goods across Downtown.

Meieran detailed his plans for the historic eatery while standing alongside Councilman Jose Huizar; Linda Dishman, Executive Director of the L.A. Conservancy; and Don and Robert Clinton, the son and grandson of Clifton’s founder Clifford Clinton.

The Clintons' involvement in Clifton's day-to-day operations will end as part of the sale, but they'll continue to be Meieran's landlords. The operator of the Edison acquired the cafeteria company and a 40-year master lease to the building from the family.

Meieren said a “sympathetic restoration” could begin immediately with an eventual goal of restoring Clifton’s to “what it was like in the ‘30s.”

“Preservation is not about pausing,” Huizar said, sharing that he had a sigh of relief when he heard of Meieren’s plans to purchase and restore the classic eatery, which first opened in 1935.

While much of the press conference focused on plans for the cafeteria itself, Meieran does plan to add a nightlife venue to the business. He said today that patrons will be treated to the full Clifton’s experience, with entry through the forest themed cafeteria itself before they walk up the central stairway to the planned tiki bar or classic lounge.

He referenced Clifton’s 1939 polynesian-themed Pacific Seas location when discussing the tiki bar, and said the “speakeasy,” as some have referred to a second bar, would have a Chandler-eque vibe.

Citing the value of loyalty and experience, Meiren said he planned to retain Clifton’s current staff of 65 for the near future, noting that the average staff tenure is approximately 20 years. In addition, he will be working with the Midnight Mission’s restaurant training and placement program to fill 100 new jobs.

After leasing the structure for decades, the Clinton family purchased the Broadway building in 2006, but ended up putting the property back on the market in August 2009 with a list price of $4.75 million. The 47,000 square foot building has five floors and a basement.

“We were hoping to keep the lease but sell the building,” Donald Clinton said today, “but we ended up selling the lease and keeping the building.”

He’ll soon be vacating his offices on the property and is unsure what his future plans will be. Asked about retirement, he said it’s a strong possibility, and the one his wife prefers.

Meieren will pursue having the restaurant designated a cultural monument, and will also bring the eatery up to full ADA compliance.

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