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
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.
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!