The name “Broadway” is usually associated with words like: flashy, exciting, gaudy, and elegant. However, the Broadway District in downtown Los Angeles has not seen much elegance or excitement in the past two decades. Nightlife and residential areas were almost nonexistent in the new millennium but that all began to change when the swanky Broadway Bar opened its doors at 830 Broadway in 2005.
“Nine years ago it was so different,” said Joe Baxley, Broadway Bar owner. “There was no retail on Broadway other than just decrepit stores. There was maybe 50 to 100 homeless people living across the street under the awning over there,” he said.
Baxley, the laidback owner of Broadway Bar, along with Cedd Moses chose to set up shop in the abandoned Broadway District because of the economic support that the upcoming bar would receive.
“We picked downtown because it was ripe for revitalization and also because since it hadn’t been built up yet you could still get cheap, long leases and a ton of support,” said Baxley.
Baxley said that he and Steve Needleman, the building owner of the ANJAC Fashion buildings, the Orpheum, and the Broadway Bar, both envisioned a future full of liveliness on Broadway and are doing everything they can to make that happen.
Broadway Bar is located next to the historic Orpheum Theater, and was designed with big shots like Frank Sinatra in mind. A flashy chandelier decorates the circular first-floor bar, and an elegant staircase leads up to a low-key but upscale lounge that delivers a retro, Las Vegas vibe.
Moviemakers have flocked to the low-key but glitzy atmosphere over the years. “About Last Night,” featuring comedian Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant and Micheal Ealy, made Broadway Bar a character and focal point within the film.
Other movies, including “500 Days Of Summer,” featuring Zoe Deschanel and Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and “Transformers” featuring Shia Labeouf, have used Broadway Bar’s interior and exterior for memorable movie scenes.
Shows like “Hello Ladies,” and “Shark” have also filmed scenes in the popular bar. One of the most memorable scenes for Baxley was in AMC’s “Madmen,” when the bar was turned into New York City’s 1960s Playboy club.
“They made it look totally authentic like the real playboy club and one of the reasons I think they picked it is because the Playboy Club in New York had stairs that are similar to ours so that was in the background,” said Baxley. “I mean you can’t even tell it was Broadway Bar but it was really cool to see that.”
Although Broadway Bar has consistently been the premiere nightlife location within the Broadway District, the Bring Back Broadway initiative has brought in dozens of retail locations, upscale residential buildings, and most recently, the Ace Hotel.
“We’ve seen a slight increase in sales and that may be due to the Ace Hotel and just more foot traffic and more activity in the area,” said Baxley.
The innovative businessman also co-owns “Two Boots Pizza,” which sits on the left side of Broadway Bar and has also seen steady business. Baxley is excited about the revitalization of Broadway even though it may bring in some stiff competition in the nightlife scene. Still, he remains optimistic about what Broadway will be and the future of his thriving business.