The historic United Artists Theatre opened in 1927 in Downtown LA’s Broadway theatre district. The stunning Spanish Gothic building was one of the first great temples to the film arts, though in recent years it had fallen somewhat into disrepair. But after a massive renovation by Commune Design and GREC Architects, this stunner is back as the latest installation of the Ace Hotel‘s globe-spanning empire of hotels.
The Ace Hotels are known for combining meticulous design with forward-thinking restaurants and coffee bars. The New York and Portland Aces host full-on bars from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, while the London outpost hosts Bulldog Edition, an Ace Hotel concept developed in collaboration with Square Mile Coffee Roasters. For the LA hotel, the Ace worked with Stumptown to create a lobby espresso bar as part of their new restaurant LA Chapter. I went down for an early look with my friend, photographer Amparo Rios to capture the gorgeous new space.
This week the Ace ‘soft opened’ their doors as they busily complete renovations of the building and theatre, install fabric sculptures, and ready the most drool-worthy new roof-top lounge in downtown LA. Elements of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House serve as inspiration for a stunning roof deck, befitting the Ace’s serious architectural focus at the United Artists Theatre. The hotel’s design balances the golden age of Hollywood glamour with a dash of more modern minimalism. Shelves of vintage books line the reception desk along with a wooly wall hanging. The room décor, influenced by Rudolf Shindler’s West Hollywood house, feature pops of color, Pendelton blankets, turntables, and claw foot tubs.
The Ace aims to be a hub for artists, creatives, and innovators, and the irreverent collection of design references bay be just as entertaining as the Spanish Gothic theatre that serves as the heart of the project. What was originally Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffiths’ temple to art has been transformed into the Ace’s sanctuary for art, film, lodging, dining, and drinking. A sidewalk café now flanks the newly restored exterior of the building just steps away from the entrance to the theatre what will be the stage for concerts, film screenings, events, and parties.
LA Chapter, the hotel’s café/restaurant, will serve locally sourced homestyle dishes by executive chef Ken Addington in association with Jud Mongell of Five Leaves in Brooklyn. A classic white carrera marble espresso bar bridges the area from reception desk to LA Chapter. “We are stoked on these guys,” remarked Matt Lounsbury, Stumptown’s Director of Operations. “Stumptown’s Travis Hale has been intensely involved in the project, but at the end of the day it is an Ace-operated bar inside the restaurant.”
The coffee bar team will be at the ready every morning to make coffee and espresso drinks for hotels guests and visitors. All of the pastries are made in house by the LA Chapter pastry chef and are displayed on vintage trays found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.
The hotel also stocks Stumptown’s Cold Brew Stubbies. So after trying a Gibraltar and lattes made by barista Nathan Nittayo, we grabbed a bottle of cold brew to go on a photo safari around the hotel.
It looked pretty good next to Victory Journal, by the mini bar, and we even tried to capture it from a balcony in the same frame as a Banksy across the street from the hotel.
The neighborhood around the Ace is becoming a hotspot, with many new restaurants and outlets from a range of brands opening up. Alma opened across the street in 2012. More recently Urban Outfitters opened in the Rialto Theatre and Acne opened in the Eastern Colombia Building. As we headed back to the coffee bar after our photo safari, we found Chris Adams, Nudie Jeans‘ Brand Manager, stopping in for a latte after coming from Nudie’s appointment-only showroom on 8th Street.
The last little bits of the hotel’s sumptuous renovation were just being finished when we visited. The coffee menu was being hand-painted onto a mirrored section of the coffee bar, some last vintage accessories were being placed, and the last batch of fresh plants was being brought in.
The Ace’s rehabilitation of the United Arts Theatre has the LA Historic Theatre Foundation giddy with glee. We ran into a number of members of the foundation during an architecture tour, and they were all thrilled to show off one of the lovingly restored Broadway theatres. The team at the Ace hotel up their game with each iteration of their hotel/restaurant/coffee kingdom, and the new Downtown LA location is quite the glittering jewel in the crown.
Photos by Amparo Rios for R.E. Photography, used with permission.