Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jail Cafe now the El Cid

First assembled in 1925, the structure of El Cid used to be the Jail Café.  This popular speakeasy/restaurant was designed as a prison.  The design was complete with a watchtower, V.I.P. jail cells, and guard/inmate uniformed waiters.

 In 1932 the building was converted into The Gateway Theatre, a theatrical playhouse where The Blackguard has a continuous seven year run.

In 1962, Juan Talavera, Margarita Cordova, and Clark Allen turned the building into the Cabaret Concert Theatre.  The three wanted to open their own Flamenco hub after working at the Purple Onion for the past six years.  In late 1962 the playhouse was converted into a replica of a 16th century tavern, which is El Cid today.  The “El Cid” name was decided on since Clark Allen originally wanted it named after him.  The cost of each letter for an illuminated sign would be too much though and he decided on El Cid after talking to Cordova, his wife.  The name was the same title of a popular Spanish movie that had come out at the same time.  They kept the theme Spanish, but not 'America trying to look like Spanish.'  One of the things to attract customers were the leaks in the roof.   They would hand out umbrellas to patrons on rainy days and fans from Tijuana, Mexico on hot days.  This along with not knowing whom the waiter or waitress was that night made each experience unique and business kept picking up.  The El Cid was sold in 1973, after two patrons held up Allen and Cordova at gunpoint after they closed up for the night and Allen was shot, but not fatally.  

Kristopher Turner

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