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LA Attractions: Johnie's Coffee Shop Restaurant - Totally LA
LA film location
LA Tourist Attractions,  Miracle Mile

LA Attractions: Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant

If the restaurant in the photo above looks familiar to you, you have probably seen it in a movie or two or three.

Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant is located on Wilshire Blvd and Fairfax, the western boundary of the Miracle Mile. Though it has been closed for years, it is a Los Angeles Historical Landmark and is used frequently as a filming location.

Johnie’s Coffee Shop Movies

Johnies Restaurant
Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant. Pin it to your LA travel board.

Johnie’s has been a star in a number of Hollywood movies and music videos.  It appeared in the 1988 cult film Miracle Mile. In 1999 it appeared in a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers music video, then in a 2003 music video with Reba McEntire and a music video by Sean Kingston. Major films it has appeared in are Volcano, The Big Legowski, Reservoir Dogs, American History X, Gone in 60 Seconds and Make Hay When The Sun Shines.

The interior of the cafe and entrance area look strongly like the restaurant used in Cult Fiction, but I can’t find any reference on where that scene was filmed.

Googie Architecture

The restaurant opened in 1956 as Romeo’s Times Square and became Johnie’s in the 1960s. It is a classic example of a style of architecture from the period known as “Googie.” Another example of the Googie style of architecture is the old Bob’s Big Boy restaurant chain.

Johnie’s in Politics

By the year 2000, Johnie’s had served it’s last cup of coffee.  The space sat empty until the son of its second owners got the idea to use it to help causes that aligned with is politics.

In 2016 he opened it up to the Bernie Sanders for President campaign.  Even after Sanders lost the primary bid, the Sanders volunteer committee was allowed to continue using the space.  The coffee shop came to be known to some as Bernie’s Coffee Shop.  Afterwards it served as host to a number of other causes including Black Lives Matter, Youth Climate Strike, the #MeToo movement and the Medicare for All campaign.

The Sanders campaign posters and art never came down out of the windows and can be seen inside the coffee shop if you peek in.  Perhaps they knew that in 2020 Sanders would take another shot at the Presidency and that once again Johnie’s would serve as homebase for volunteers of Bernie’s 2020 Presidential campaign.

Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant was declared a historical landmark by the Los Angeles City Council on November 27, 2013.

If you are visiting Los Angeles, Johnie’s is located right next to several major LA tourist attractions you may wish to visit as well. These include the La Brea Tar Pits, the Petersen Automotive Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the world famous Urban Light sculpture in its courtyard.

Unfortunately, you can only see Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant from the outside… unless you can do a convincing job of faking it as a movie location scout.  It’s a shame someone doesn’t open it up as a restaurant again and restore it to its original appearance.  Just like the fifties diners made a comeback, so should the Googie style coffee shops of the sixties!

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3 Comments

  • Oliver

    jI live one block from Johnie’s Coffee Shop AKA Bernie’s Coffee Shop AKA Bernie’s Coffee Shop Volunteer Office, which is located on the Northwest corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Blvd. It claims to be a political headquarter for progressive campaigns. I walk by this abandoned building every day and all I see is trash and homeless people living in tents around it. That dirty, vacant building stinks of human urine and feces. It could provide shelter or at least a bathroom for the homeless instead of just being an empty building. Or perhaps the absentee landlord could rent or sell the building to a business that will actually provide value to the community and have an incentive to keep the area safe and clean. I am frustrated because in addition to Johnie’s Coffee Shop which looks abandoned except for the homeless that live around it, there are several other vacant businesses along Wilshire blvd that span from Fairfax avenue to Crescent Heights. These empty, dirty and dilapidated buildings are the former Sizzler building and the former Ortho Mattress building. All three businesses have been defunct for years and it has turned the neighborhood into something that looks like a zombie apocalypse movie. When I take my dog for a walk at night I constantly encounter rats and cockroaches while occasionally avoiding used hypodermic needles. If there were productive businesses in these vacant buildings they would clean up the trash and make the area cleaner and safer for the residents and the community at large.

    • MarkLA

      I agree with you Oliver. Just east of it things are nice, but going west it gets run down fast. Getting these businesses occupied would bring it up a lot and in a city where real estate and housing is as scarce as in LA, it makes no sense to not repurpose any building that is empty.

      • Oliver

        Hello Mark, Below is a copy of a letter I sent Councilmember Paul Koretz. It expresses concern over the growing homeless encampment and vacant buildings on Wilshire between Crescent Heights and Fairfax. If you share my concern, I urge you to also write in to Councilmember Koretz.

        RE: Public Nuisance/Health Hazard/Public Safety Threat/Wilshire-Fairfax Vicinity
        Dear Councilmember Paul Koretz,

        As a concerned citizen and your constituent, and someone who has spoken with my fellow residents, I write to you about an urgent and deteriorating situation requiring your priority attention, — abandoned buildings, blight and decay, homeless encampments and a growing threat to public health and safety.
        Day by day, I have witnessed incredible growth in my Carthay Circle neighborhood where my family has lived for twenty years. This construction includes the Purple Line, the Museum & Theater for the Motion Picture Industry, new apartment high rises. Simultaneously, the once pleasant neighborhood is deteriorating rapidly, — with human urine, feces, vermin, becoming potential hotspots for diseases.
        Specifically, I cite Johnie’s Coffee Shop, located on the northwest corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, recently known as Bernie’s Coffee Shop Volunteer Office. It is a magnet for unsightly trash and transient tenancy. This business is not actively for sale or for rent; nor does it provide shelter, or a public bathroom. Even for a commercial district, it is a public nuisance. But, we also are a residential community with families and children. My long-deceased grandparents lived a few blocks away and would not recognize this unabated and flourishing blight the City of Los Angeles has allowed and condoned.
        Johnie’s Coffee Shop is not the only offender. There are other vacant businesses along Wilshire — between Fairfax and Crescent Heights — such as the former Sizzler and Ortho Mattress establishments. Defunct for years, the City of Los Angeles allows this abandoned apocalyptic set. On my daily walks with my dog, I constantly encounter rats, roaches, hypodermic needles, and lost souls in need of help. Not to mention the break-ins and the petty thefts some of the homeowners in the area have experienced.

        You can consider whatever long-term solutions for the area’s decay and homelessness. But, as our city councilman, you cannot ignore a rapidly worsening problem feeding on itself. What remedies can you propose NOW? Whether you hold the owners of the abandoned buildings responsible or propose an overall coordinated offensive, please respond with specifics, and put them into action.

        Rather than escalate this to mobilizing the entire community and pursuing the media attention it deserves, I would like to sit down with you and a staff member, who has your confidence and authority to move on this pressing matter.

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