On October 23, photos first circulated on social media showing workers on top of the awning of the historic Pig ‘n Whistle cafe at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard, covering the beautiful 1920s facade with cheap plastic signage for a Mr. Tempo Cantina and dropping the neon signs on the sidewalk.
We confirmed with a search of the LADBS website that there were no building permits to do anything to the Pig ‘n Whistle, which while not a city landmark, is a recognized and protected historic district contributor at the local, state and national level. In fact, somebody had complained about unpermitted work on October 19, but inspector Alfredo Balandra had bafflingly closed the complaint noting “no violation.”
It made our blood boil. First, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell worked behind the scenes with Netflix to help the $289 Billion company take control of the Egyptian Theatre from the community non-profit American Cinematheque, despite Netflix executive Ted Sarandos sitting on the Cinematheque’s board. Now, with the theater shuttered and nobody around to keep an eye on the scandal-plagued, also shuttered restaurant next door, a precious landmark was being wrecked in slow motion. And a building inspector just blew the complaint off? Doesn’t anybody in this paragraph give a damn about Los Angeles?
The worst of the facade photos was captured by tour guide Brian Donnelly; in August, tour guide April Brooks Clemmer captured a shocking image of the whitewashed interior, and we’re told that preservation groups informed Mitch O’Farrell’s staff and the Office of Historic Resources that the Pig ‘n Whistle was being illegally altered, but nothing was done.
We’re tour guides and preservationists, too, and we wanted to do our part. So on Monday, we reached out to our contacts at Building and Safety expressing concern about the inspector who had closed a major violation improperly and asking that the case be reopened, ideally with a new inspector assigned. Then we posted Brian’s photograph to our Twitter and other social media with the text “Are you mad Pig ‘n Whistle at 6714 Hollywood is being wrecked with no permits? Email Lambert Giessinger in OHR firstname.lastname@example.org & Daniel Halden at CD 13 email@example.com and ask them to file a stop work order and protect this designated historic resource!” A lot of people emailed, as word of the destruction spread (thanks, Alison Martino of Vintage Los Angeles), and by day’s end, a stop work order was posted on the building. Shortly after that, Valley Relics announced that they had “saved” and taken away the protected historic resource signage.
Meanwhile the press was calling, asking for clarification on the differences between official city landmarks and protected contributors like the Pig ‘n Whistle. Good pieces were published by L.A. Taco, Beverly Press and Eater L.A. And with constituents and Hollywood history lovers from around the world bombarding the city with outraged messages, Mitch O’Farrell took credit for getting Building and Safety over to halt the destruction. It would have been nice if something had been done when the first complaints were made to his office, in August, but we believe his office did ask for quick action in response to the public outcry.
So now what? Mr. Tempo’s workers have whitewashed the interior and slapped new signage onto the facade, all without permits. The city has the discretion to hold a property owner accountable in a situation like this, to demand that historic resources that were damaged be repaired or replaced at the owner’s expense. But City Hall rarely cracks down on developers and businesses that wreck protected buildings. Could Pig ‘n Whistle be the exception that scares the next Mr. Tempo and Mr. Tempo’s landlord from pulling a stunt like this? We hope so!
That brings us to today’s email from Lambert Giessinger, the preservation architect in the city’s Office of Historic Resources and one of the recipients of all those angry emails. Here’s his report:
“Craig Bullock and Dan Halden [from Mitch O’Farrell’s office] coordinated a meeting at the property yesterday with the business owner, building department and me. I have attached some photographs. I’ve asked the business owner to prepare a document to discuss the original restoration work they did in 1999, changes to the space over time, and the most recent work they have done so we can better assess the condition. It appears that most of the new finish work is cosmetic. The Pig ‘N Whistle cartouches on the facade have been covered with foam and were not removed. I suspect the alterations to the sign require a permit and will require OHR and Planning review. I’ve also attached the municipal code section that triggers review of work when a permit is applied for. The building department has indicated that the restaurant TI work for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems requires permits. – Lambert”
Here is the relevant municipal code section:
We’re hopeful that with continued public scrutiny pressing the city to act, the damage to the Pig ‘n Whistle can be reversed, and that it will serve as an opportunity for raising public awareness not just about the laws that protect contributors to historic districts, but the existential threat currently facing all of the historic buildings in the National Register Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District if the city implements such fast-tracked anti-preservation ordinances as the Housing Element and Hollywood Community Plan Update.
People all over the world who care about Hollywood need to speak out, now and regularly, or the politicians who take such rotten care of our historic resources will sell them off cheap and ruin all that’s special about this strange and beautiful town that we love so much. We can’t sit back and let that happen, not without fighting back. We’re on the side of the Angels—are you? If you are, sign up for our newsletter (there are free or paid editions) and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we’ll keep you posted about preservation crises that you can help solve just by speaking up and spreading the word.
Update: November 21, 2021 – Hollywood Heritage complained for months about unpermitted Pig ‘n Whistle work, but the city erroneously assumed it was part of the Netflix project next door, and did nothing to stop the destruction. Heads should roll. The implication is that City Planning looks the other way when the property owner is Netflix, or when staff just assume it is. Is that because of NFLX’ special relationship with Hollywood councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who helped them buy the Egyptian?
Update: December 2, 2021 – Beverly Press reports on the status of the missing permits and future of the site, with quotes from the city’s historic preservation architect Lambert Giessinger and the Los Angeles Conservancy.
Update, January 10, 2022 – Permits have been requested to begin work on the Pig ‘N Whistle property, but they have not yet been approved. Nevertheless, beginning on January 10, 2022, Mr. Tempo owner Jorge Cueva has made a series of social media videos blatantly engaging in demolition work inside the building.
Update, January 12, 2022 – Asked about the status of the project, Lambert Giessinger of the city’s Office of Historic Resources said: “I have not seen any plans or permits for the project.” Any work must be approved by his office before beginning. For instructions on filing a complaint, click here.
Update, January 13, 2022 – L.A. Taco’s Hadley Tomicki reports Pig ‘n Whistle Slayer ‘Mr. Tempo’ Mocks L.A. Preservationists With Taunts (and Farts) In New Video.
Update January 15, 2022 – Community members Joey Meza and Chris Listak go to 6714 Hollywood Boulevard to confirm rumors that Mr. Tempo has opened for business in spite of the lack of plans or permits for work on the space. They share photos in the R.I.P. Los Angeles group on Facebook. Soon after, a fake account on Yelp shares staged photos of Mr. Tempo menu items and gives the Hollywood restaurant five stars, while defaming our tour company as dirty and rude. We are not operating tours during the pandemic. (On January 18, Yelp emailed us regarding “Elie B’s” fake review of Esotouric: ” We wanted to let you know that the person who posted the review removed it themselves. Thanks just the same for taking the time to report content that you thought may violate our guidelines.”)
Update January 16, 2022 – At 1pm on Sunday afternoon, an employee was seen taping up signs that read CLOSED FOR A PRIVATE EVENT to the blacked out windows of the gutted Pig ‘N Whistle space. Word on the street is LAPD stopped by last night, asked to see their permits, then shut Mr. Tempo down.
Update February 7, 2022 – Hollywood Heritage posts on Facebook: “[We] met again today with the (former) Pig ‘n Whistle owners to assess the status of character defining features of the building, following their remodel last year. We will have news for you soon. This is a delicate matter. What we can say right now, is that we are appreciative of the owner’s cooperation in reaching a mutually satisfactory situation that addresses both preservation and their business needs.” We are confused why HH would be working with the property owners regarding violations of the local building code and historic preservation laws and state liquor licenses, as opposed to the responsible city and state agencies, but will stay tuned for additional posts. (On 2/17/22 during the Cultural Heritage Commission hearing, Lambert Geissinger from Office of Historic Resources clarified that he believes Hollywood Heritage had reached out to Pig ’N’ Whistle about getting some artifacts for their museum, but they are not in meetings regarding the demolition, Lambert is).
Update May 2, 2022 – With no valid permits for the work done to a contributing historic resource and food establishment business, Mr. Tempo remains shuttered. You can review the status of their permit application status here, including the note that on 4/26/22 the city’s preservation architect Lambert Geissinger cleared the Historic Resource Verification. No permit has been issued to date.
Update May 5, 2022 – At the regular Cultural Heritage Commission meeting, we asked about the status of Pig ’N’ Whistle, and Lambert Geissinger replied the unpermitted work issue had been resolved, and offered to share the report commissioned by the property owner as part of this process. You can read the report here. Of particular interest: 1) the Mr. Tempo branded skull medallions on the facade will be removed and the flute-playing pigs they covered up restored; 2) the neon sign removed by Valley Relics in October is “stored at the Valley Relics Museum for the express purpose of allowing restoration at a future date” and 3) some original Pig ‘n Whistle tiles and ceiling decoration in the basement survived the unpermitted demolition activities of Mr. Tempo owner Jorge Cueva.
Update May 7, 2022 – Marquis of The Rhythm Howlers snapped a photo showing the storefront with the Mr. Tempo branded skull medallions no longer visible, pending restoration of the flute-playing pigs.
Update May 15, 2022 – Joey Meza captured a photo of one of the signature pig medallions that was covered up with a Mr. Tempo branded skull, and we’re relieved that it doesn’t appear to have been damaged. Jackshollywoodhistory also visited the shuttered restaurant, taking photos of both pigs, a glimpse of the whitewashed interior, and noting broken windows on the storefront.
Update: May 19, 2022 – In response to the Historic Preservation Services Report that we obtained from Office of Historic Resources two weeks ago, community member Michael Callahan has prepared a highly critical analysis for the Cultural Heritage Commissioners, and asks them to place the reversal of unpermitted work at Pig ‘n Whistle on a future CHC agenda. We will be calling in at today’s 10am meeting and making public comment asking this, too. In his illustrated rebuttal, Callahan argues convincingly that the Sapphos Environmental report “fails to identify historic artifacts known to be present on-site prior to the start of construction… does not present an accurate view of all work performed to date [and] fails to meet the scope of work set by the [Office of Historic Resources].”