New cafe slated for Montrose at former Rocky Cola location

A conspicuous vacancy at the eastern gateway of Montrose Shopping Park for more than seven months, the site of the former Rocky Cola Café may soon reopen as a restaurant and bar under different ownership and a new name.

City operating permits and a state license to serve beer, wine and liquor at 2201 Honolulu Ave. are pending for a restaurant to be called Bluejeans, officials said.

Bluejeans would be operated by local restaurateur Jeff Williams, owner of the nearly next-door Star Café and Black Cow Café as well as Clancy's Crab Broiler and Jax Bar & Grill in downtown Glendale.

Williams was traveling and could not be reached this week but "is in the final stage of developing his restaurant and bar concept," spokeswoman Annet Peairs said.

Bluejeans' liquor license is set to activate once all city clearances — including a permit for sidewalk dining — are complete, said Brad Beach, district director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control office in Van Nuys.

Glendale has granted the location a conditional-use permit for liquor sales, and zoning certifications are in the process. Officials are expected to review the Williams' sidewalk dining application as early as next week, city spokesman Tom Lorenz said.

The fact that Bluejeans is seeking a full-service liquor license for the former '50s-style family diner seems to reflect increasing nighttime patronage of the area by people in their late 20s and 30s, said Dale Dawson, executive director of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn.

"The walk-around traffic at night is very much a younger crowd, so the venue is probably going to work really well for Jeff," Dawson said. "Retail is still suffering [effects of the recession]. Restaurants are making it happen."

That's quite a difference from 25 years ago, when Rocky Cola Café first opened its doors. Few restaurants operated in the area at that time, former general manager Lucy DiMino told the News-Press shortly before the restaurant closed on Dec. 30.

Ironically, the proliferation of restaurants that followed Rocky Cola's opening would eventually dilute its customer base as the economy sputtered, she said.

But filling the prominent vacancy at the corner of Honolulu and Verdugo Road may have a positive effect on similar businesses in the area, said Dave Friedman, a bartender at the Fat Dog gastropub just a few doors down.

Friedman, 34, and his brother Joe Friedman, 33, plan to assume ownership of the Fat Dog later this year and rename it Basin 141.

The name inspired by the number of residents counted in a survey of the Los Angeles Basin in the 1840s, Basin 141 will celebrate L.A. past and present with its décor, menu and a variety of local microbrews on tap, Dave Friedman said.

With Bluejeans in town, the block "might be even more of a destination for people because they have a few options to grab a drink and have a good meal," he said. "We feel lucky to be in the area."


Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.


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