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Former L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon:…

Former Rain Forest Cafe/Royal Garden Site to Be Recast as Purple Monkey

A film producer with a heart and soul for 'food and beverage,' has taken over the lease at 11026 Magnolia Blvd., last known as a Mediteranean buffet/hookah lounge where live rabbits were reported to roam freely.

The NoHo Arts District is chock-full of unique (what some may call funky) spaces, and 11026 Magnolia Blvd. is one of these. It's a space that is hidden behind a rather unremarkable facade, with a somewhat sloppy paint job and signage left over from the previous establishment, the , which was formerly operated by Avo Hakopian and open for less than a year.

The location is not to be confused with that 'other' (actually a chain of themed restaurants owned by Landry's), like the fancy one located at Downtown Disney in Anaheim. 

Now, a film producer and possible future reality show star, Jeffery Patterson, has taken over the lease and made big, bold plans for the space, which he says will be an artist's cafe called Purple Monkey. Patterson is also currently filming a reality show at the space about his life and the process of opening the cafe.

It is not what you first encounter from the street view that should surprise you about the restaurant space, it is when you first walk inside. Looking past the entry doors into the restaurant area, you won't find tiled floors or groupings of standard restaurant four-top tables. And if you look up, you will notice there are tall Eucalyptus trees and a view of the sky above.

Yes, this is an open space... where you're probably not expecting an open space.

"When I peeked inside this door, and I saw it, I said, 'I gotta have it!'" Patterson exclaimed.

For anyone who has chanced upon comments posted by readers and on Yelp, you might not have been shocked that the place where rabbits roamed free shut down so soon. Previously, the location was known as the , which had been a NoHo mainstay for 18 years fondly remembered by longtime locals.

"The Royal Garden was a noho landmark. Hopefully someone with a great eye for food can reimagine this place into a great outdoor venue as it once was," of commented on our story about the Rain Forest Cafe's closing.

Patterson is the current leaseholder of the unique space. He said he signed a five-year lease on the property, with another five-year extension, because he knows that there is so much potential here. He immediately thought the site could be like Hollywood's own unique coffee shop, Bourgeois Pig, or like the in Sudio City.

"The bones are here, we just have to put some meat on it." Patterson remarked.

Patterson is a tall man with a lanky to average build, silver-blue eyes and long sandy-blonde hair, with a grayish beard reminiscent of Colonel Sanders, from certain angles. He mentioned he was a dad of several teenagers, and he looked to be around 50. On this day, he wore hipster-style, dark-rimmed glasses, and sported a porkpie hat.

Patterson is a jovial fellow, and you would not be wrong if you thought he has acted on camera. Patterson is fond of his upbringing in Alabama and especially his experiences while he lived in Florida.

Patterson spoke about his background in investment banking and stock brokering, which he said was always mixed with his on-going passion to own and run restaurants and bars — the passion with "food and beverage" is how he was able to quickly decide on leasing the Magnolia space. That, and his business sense to see a possibly good opportunity.

"North Hollywood is exploding! I love this area! Thirty theaters within a three-block radius; it's an artist's community!" Patterson said, practically jumping up out of his seat.

To explain his enthusiasm, Patterson gave a tour to point out the site's potential, and noted everything he imagined that is yet to be built. Current fixtures and furniture are set aside for demolition or replacement, and everything he envisions at the moment are probably still on the drawingboards of the landscape designers, pool specialists and decorators he has enlisted.

"You come from the cement jungle out there, into the tropical jungle inside." Patterson said.

He described his vision of a "jungle paradise," where palm fronds lap over the roofs of the covered seating areas. He sees bamboo, banana trees, and lily pads in the pools where live koi fish will swim. Guests will relax to the sound of waterfalls, sitting in over-sized rattan chairs. At night, guests will be enchanted by the sights and sounds of a tropical "jungle getaway" lit up by tiny L.E.D. lights suspended high above in the tree branches. A fire pit and well-placed indirect lighting will bring warmth and romantic ambiance.

Patterson clearly expressed Purple Monkey's motif: "Fire, water and trees; it's an artist's retreat."

Patterson walked over to "the cave," which it literally is, and made a point about its privacy. He said, "That's a great place for a flat-screen T.V." Then Patterson stepped into the center of the grounds, on a paved walkway near the fire pit. "Not a bad seat in the house; every nook and cranny has it's own personality," he said.

Patterson worked out that Purple Monkey will most likely open at 10 a.m., and said they're really not competing for customers with the local Starbucks, on the corner of Magnolia and Lankershim. He also mentioned that there's a great place that does breakfast, , just down the street.

Patterson said he envisions a place where artists can ponder their creativity over a relaxing cup of coffee.

"We'll have organic coffee, we want to go as far organic and natural as we can in all our foods, and even down to things like napkins, where we want to be conscientious of the environment," he said.

Patterson explained more of his vision, how the place "basically metamorphosizes into a totally different space" come night, when people would be searching for entertainment, something good to eat, a great place to hang out with buddies. Would Purple Monkey have a liquor license?

"We're exploring beer and wine," Patterson answered.

Patterson said the menu will go with motif, "Carribean-type sandwiches."  He adds, "It's tropical, it's American, but Key West. Me being from Florida, there's a lot of things I want to bring, Key West style."

Patterson hinted at some of the lunch menu items he'd like to serve, like "soft-shell crab sandwiches, and incredible fish.

"At night there would be a menu that might have shrimp cocktail and coconut-encrusted shrimp appetizers." For entrees: "Really good fish that's fried or baked, and blackened salmon," he said.

Patterson gave his take on possible entertainment, being that Purple Monkey is an open space.

"It would be strictly acoustic, like some guy with a guitar playing Jimmy Buffett... "Wasted Away Again In Margaritaville"... or Seals and Crofts, Simon and Garfunkel... we'll have to see what the public wants." Patterson thought out loud that Wednesday night could be poetry night, or some kind of open mic night, well aware of the population of artists nearby.

"We want to cater to the neighborhood," he said.

Patterson praised the Universal City North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the North Hollywood Business Improvement District (BID), and , who owns , about helping him get established in the Arts District.

"Morgan understands what this neighborhood is turning into." Patterson said. "The more people come to North Hollywood, the more business. With more restaurants, people who are going to the theaters will say, hey, let's just stay here and eat," instead of driving to City Walk or going over to Hollywood.

Patterson said he hopes the city approves Purple Monkey's operating hours of 10 a.m. to midnight on the weekends. Hours during the weekdays would probably be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Patterson said the businesses in the NoHo Arts District are friendly business neighbors.

"We're not competing with each other, we're working together. There's enough business for everybody. The more businesses we open here, the more business we attract for all of us," he said.

Patterson said he is primarily a movie producer, who just happened to discover the former Rainforest Cafe site. He said he is currently producing a film called, Last Chance Ranch with Kris Kristofferson and Mel Tillis of Grand Ole Opry fame. It's a film that will revolve around "music at a modern-day ranch."

"We came up with a list of names we thought were good, names like, The Island, Shipwrecks," Patterson laughed, explaining how "Purple Monkey" was chosen as the name, adding that random people were asked while being filmed for a segment of his reality show.

Patterson said one of his financial backers pitched the idea of a reality show to the Food Network about "some guy opening up a restaurant in Hollywood."  But now that the network has learned more about Patterson and his family, the storyline now includes much of Patterson's own life, which is about a single dad who lives in Hollywood and has three teenage daughters... where the oldest one is a cheerleader at Hollywood High School, and the other two girls are 12-year-old identical twins.

His reality show is still shooting, and is tentatively called, "Patterson's Purple Monkey." Patterson said the name could change, because another network, Bravo, is possibly interested and may want to call it something like, "Hollywood Dad."

Patterson said Patterson's Purple Monkey, the reality show, is centered around a family, so it won't be "like Hell's Kitchen where I'll be screaming at you; and this is not the "Kardashians." I'm a single dad with three girls... teenage daughters."

He said people in Kansas and Connecticut will watch because of its family focus.

"It's got a lot of drama in it, without creating drama," Patterson said.

Patterson described how "Purple Monkey: the restaurant" nicely intertwined with "Purple Monkey: the reality show."

As an example, Patterson said when it comes time to hiring workers for the restaurant, the hiring process of Purple Monkey's staff will be a part of the reality show. All potential employees will have to "sign-off on working for four weeks on a reality show," meaning, being on-camera, and possibly on television. Patterson said one whole show will be about the hiring process.

Patterson warned potential employees: "We are so service-oriented, it takes a special personality to be able to do it!"

Patterson penciled in Mid-May for a possible Purple Monkey opening, with plans for a "huge grand opening," complete with a "red carpet and celebrity friends." Patterson said Purple Monkey's unique setting would make it a great place for wrap parties, and he hopes Purple Monkey will "expose people to the new and improved North Hollywood."

"We surveyed, we did demographics, we know how many apartments are here, how many apartments are rented, what's the average income, what's the average age," Patterson said.

Patterson pointed to the open area.

"I'm not building this for me," Patterson said, then pointing toward Magnolia Boulevard. "I'm building this for the community as it is...  a community of artists."

Bob Peppermuller February 27, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Good Luck! I live around the corner and look forward to your opening. Make sure you have a solid business plan.
J. Ryan February 27, 2012 at 08:36 PM
This could be tough. I'm not sold on the idea yet. In all honesty, I still think they've got to improve the facade to give the place a chance. Royal Garden likely succeeded because it was well-known around the neighborhood and had been around for awhile, but now you've got Bow & Truss opening up a few spots down, add to it Eat and Republic of Pie, all of which have, or will have, street-facing activity either via window or patio. This intrinsically makes those places seem more inviting, especially for those just visiting or passing through--much more than a stucco, windowless building anyway. The description of what the place will become seems a little nebulous too. On one hand, it's a nice relaxed place to get coffee--that doesn't want to compete with Starbucks, Eat or RoP--but it also will focus on Carribean cuisine? Is that really the best pairing? Even though I've only seen the inside during its Rainforest Cafe days (in which I went in and out after about a minute), I would agree that the unique layout and ambiance presents an opportunity for someone with a vision to come in and do it justice. Good luck!
maria muse February 28, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Meant to write, "too" theme like. I agree with the above statement-- not totally sold. There has to be a focus. If its Key West, then do Key West and do it right without getting hokey.
Laura January 10, 2013 at 12:01 AM
So meanwhile, a year later.......anything?
Arin Mikailian January 10, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Hi, Laura: I caught up with the owner last fall, who said remodeling work was about to begin. http://northhollywood.patch.com/articles/purple-monkey-remodeling-work-starting-soon But I haven't spoken to him since. Time to catch up and see where he's at now. Arin

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