The legendary Hollywood restaurant Pig ‘n Whistle has closed as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. What’s more, the historic space at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard appears to be undergoing an unpermitted renovation from Mexican chain restaurant Tempo Urban Kitchen, which has not opened yet. Last week, workers were seen removing parts of the classic facade and signage from the nearly century-old building known for its vintage British pub-inspired decor, though some preservationists are saying the work is being done without city approval. LA historian Alison Martino posted a photo of a stop work order dated October 25 that demanded all renovation to cease until the operator obtained approvals from Building and Safety and other departments.
Over the weekend, other stakeholders and LA history buffs shared photos of those renovations and changes made to the outside and inside of the restaurant. It’s unclear at this time when, or in what way, work will commence on site again, though the old Pig ‘n Whistle signage has been removed in favor of the new tenant’s name, Tempo Cantina. Eater reached out to operator Jorge Cuevas to discuss the new location and work being done, but so far has not heard back.
Pig ‘n Whistle first opened as a chain of restaurants in Downtown LA in 1908, expanding to Hollywood in 1927 next to the Egyptian Theatre. That version of Pig and Whistle closed during World War II, with much of its wooden furniture and hand-carved artifacts moving over to the current Micelli’s Italian Restaurant in Hollywood, where they are still intact. In the late 1990s the space at 6714 Hollywood Boulevard was being operated as a Numero Uno pizzeria, until Hollywood nightlife impresario and restaurateur Chris Breed took it over to revive Pig ‘n Whistle in 2001.
Breed restored some of the original ceiling ornamentation and tiling, bringing in antique furniture and fixtures to give the new Pig ‘n Whistle a lived-in, historic-looking ambience that tried its best to reflect the original. Margot Gerber (who worked at the American Cinematheque, which operated the next-door Egyptian Theater for nearly 30 years) Breed and his company Sunset Entertainment Group operated the Pig ‘n Whistle space until the pandemic, during which the restaurant closed and only served takeout. It’s unclear whether Sunset Entertainment Group is involved with current operator Mr. Tempo. What’s more, earlier this year an LA Times report revealed alleged sexual misconduct at a goth club called Cloak and Dagger that took over the restaurant’s back bar in 2019.
Tempo Urban Kitchen is chain of Mexican restaurants originally opened by Jorge Cuevas, which has locations in Brea, Downey, and Anaheim. Cuevas also operates Kings and Queens Cantina, which originally opened in San Diego and now has outlets in Santa Monica and Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, as well as upcoming spots in West Hollywood, La Paz (Baja California), New York City, and Guadalajara. Cuevas operates a lifestyle brand called Mr. Tempo that sells everything from sneakers and spirits to candy and cigars. Observers have already noticed a lot of the former Pig ‘n Whistle’s furniture removed, with a large colorful mural covering a wall inside. Eater reached out to Cuevas to understand what changes he plans on making with the space, but has not heard back.
LA preservationists Richard Schave and Kim Cooper, who operate a tour company called Esotouric, contend the work being done by Tempo Kitchen and Cuevas lacks any permit and seems to be a brazen attempt to erase, at least in part, the history of Pig ‘n Whistle. However, the current version of Pig ‘n Whistle is technically not considered an historic or cultural landmark. Cooper says the facade and space are considered state and nationally recognized historic resources, which technically triggers the consultation and approval of the city of LA’s preservation architect to approve any changes. However, Cooper and Schave aren’t confident the city will do anything about the changes already made to the space unless there’s a continued uproar from the public. “The city doesn’t want to seem anti-business. You can fuck shit up and there’s no consequences,” says Schave.
Earlier this year, a pop-up called Mokuzai set up an illegal outdoor dining area occupying publicly-owned traffic median nearby the Yucca corridor Hollywood sign on Cahuenga. The sushi restaurant initially defied a city order to cease operations, but has apparently closed. However, the unpermitted fencing around the “parklet” is still on the space.