Recently I was out photographing a building for an upcoming post, and as I was shooting Patrick and I began to talk about where to go for lunch. I snapped away as he looked on his phone and said “Well, the place right next door is a New Orleans place. Oh, wait, it’s closed.” And when he said closed, it really meant closed for good. Once I wrapped up shooting what I originally came for, I wandered to shuttered New Orleans themed restaurant, complete with curling wrought iron. Patrick even found some images of what it once looked like inside, and I was heartbroken that it was closed, as I love a good themed restaurant.
I snapped some photos of the outside, where boards cover up stained glass windows, white washed outdoor fans slowly rotated in the breeze, and empty bottles scattered about. The original intention was just sharing the sad remains of a once glorious themed restaurant that has fallen by the wayside, but as I read more about the place, I uncovered was a story much more heartwarming and important, and perfect to share this month.
Originally built in the streamline deco style (which can still be seen jutting out from the side) in 1936, it served as a grocery story with various owners until 1973 when Tom Simms bought the building. The interior was totally revamped into a New Orleans theme with that faux outside feel inside, ala the Blue Bayou of Disneyland. Swirling wrought iron, brick, stained glass, and murals all helped to create a kitschy version of the Big Easy in West Hollywood. The entire building was dubbed The French Market Place, with Simms opening The French Quarter Restaurant as a central focal point of the location, surrounded by small shops which faced toward the restaurant.
With new owners a few years ago, and declining business, The French Market Place shuttered its doors in July of 2015, and soon rumblings of the building being torn down began. But the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance and locals alike voiced opposition, citing the building was of historical and cultural significance. But just how was a grocery store turned kitsch-tastic restaurant historically and culturally important? Not long after opening, the restaurant became a haven and activist center for the gay community, serving as a respite during the AIDs crisis, and a meeting place for the Members of the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles to work on fundraising for gay-friendly candidates. It maintained this HQ-like quality for decades, so much so that when Jerry Brown (California’s current governor) threw his hat in the ring for the White House in 1991, and met here with members of the LGBT community seeking their support.
What did this place look like inside? I took to Yelp, which had some half-way decent pictures!
Now if I could only find images of what the building looked like when it was originally built!
Thanks to caring locals there are new plans on the books for this site. The building will be remodeled with new additions for a mix use of restaurant and office space. The facade will feature faces of both local and national LGBT activists, honoring their struggle, and the historical significance of the location. The whole building will simply be called The French Market.
Currently, the building is used as temporary office space.