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A peek inside the future of the Regent Theater: A little rock 'n' roll and a lot of restaurant

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, at 11:03AM
courtesy of Mass Architecture

A rendering of the Regent Theater by Mass Architecture

Last weekend community members were invited inside the Regent Theater on Main Street to get a peek into the possible rock 'n' roll plans for the building.

A new long term lease was signed by Mitchell Frank, founder of Spaceland and the Echo, and partners in multiple Eastside restaurants. Frank, known for his pioneering in the Silver Lake/Echo Park music scene, appears to be planning for a two-story live entertainment theater and restaurant at his new Downtown location.

Saturday's meeting included a presentation that indicated the layout of the future Regent. The designs include a restaurant and large stage area with seating on the ground floor, as well as a second-story balcony and a patio "in a public way" that can hold up to 30 people.

In total, the 11,790 square foot theater/restaurant/bar will be able to hold up to approximately 1,300 people (and maybe, four video games.)

Included in the proposal is a breakdown of the benefits Frank's new club will bring the area. These include creating 90 to 120 new jobs, hiring employees who live in or close to Downtown and establishing a job training program, possibly with local non-profit Chrysalis.

Besides creating a daily stream of customers for the Regent's restaurant, there will eventually be "events" in the building up to three times a week. The assumption is those events will be based in music.

"I fell in love with live music, mostly indie rock, which was just on the brink at the time," said Frank in one of the handouts. "And then it morphed into starting/booking a live music venue."

Frank has a track record of helping local musicians get their big break (or at least, a little exposure) at his club's residency nights, music festivals and special events. And the Regent has plans to be involved with music programs for kids as well, citing possible future collaborations with 826 LA and School of Rock.

Residents who live within 500 feet of the Regent were invited to the meeting and about 50 people showed up, said Eddie Navarrette, the expeditor on this project.

Navarrette, founder of FE Design and Consulting, has known Frank for 15 years and helped him open and expand several popular restaurants and bars, including El Prado and Malo. It's Navarrette's job to know all the ins-and-outs of permits, help secure entitlements and pass building and safety laws.

"That involves an enormous amount of paperwork and just due diligence in general," said Navarrette.

At any one time, Navarrette will be working on up to 50 projects, facilitating community outreach and knowing exactly what permits certain establishments need.

For a club like the one Frank plans to open inside the Regent, Navarrette is focused on dancing, alcohol and live entertainment permits.

He will also help decide how to best retrofit the building so that it's up to code while still maintaining the appeal of the original architecture and design features.

"How do we still make it look cool and do a good job, and still comply with current codes?" he said of the club's main issues.

Opening a new establishment in an older building always involves a significant amount of scrutiny from fire and safety boards, Navarrette said, but lately Downtown has gotten "a bit of a green light" from the city government.

The city is encouraging the creation of commerce and nightlife in Downtown, Navarrette said, so "comparatively speaking," it's a much easier place to build right now.

He likens Downtown's facelift to the cleaning up of Hollywood five to six years ago, when the government facilitated the creation of new businesses and nightlife in the area in an attempt to push out prostitution, drug dealing and other illegal activity.

Although the Regent has a lot of red tape to clear before it's officially open for business, Frank initially cited Fall 2012 as the launch date.

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