Many entrepreneurs with visions of art house cinemas, performance spaces and banquet halls have been drawn to the possibilities of the former Studio One theater in Echo Park. None ever went very far and the Sunset Boulevard building near Alvarado Street has remained closed for about 20 years, with a homeless person or two usually camped out underneath a blank marquee. Now, the most recent, and perhaps most ambitious, proposal yet for the old movie house – which opened in 1914 as the Ramona – is being pursued by former Internet businessman and beer enthusiast Tony Yanow. The former CEO of music.com said he plans to open a 150 seat restaurant called El Camino, featuring craft beers, regionally grown food and two stages for dinner theater. “It’s going to be a pure California experience,” Yanow said.
The theater interior had been gutted and floor leveled during the 1990s, leaving a cavernous 6,000-square-foot space to fill. Yanow, who is working in partnership with a person experienced as a sommelier and bar manager, said the interior will be divided into two separate dining rooms, each with a separate stage. Since the building has no off street parking, Yanow said he has agreed to lease spaces at night from the car wash at Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street. Yanow, who is seeking a beer and wine license and other city permits, and said construction work could begin in March. “If we could open by September 1, I would be pretty happy,” he said.
If Yanow lives up to that ambitious schedule, he would create another anchor for Echo Park’s lively nightclub, bar and restaurant scene. The 39-year-old Los Feliz resident, who is also in the process of buying a bar in Burbank, has never operated a restaurant and bar before but is ready to leave the online world behind to pursue his interest in good beer and food. “I decided to take my passion and make it my business.”