For 20 years, the three guys behind 1933 Group have put old L.A. back on the A-List map.
La La Land in 2018 is chockablock with nocturnal activity: jazz bars, speak-easies, millennial nightclubs, themed concepts, breweries and, of course, a significant assortment of old standards that seem cemented in the city’s collective consciousness. Many of the latter legendary drinking dens are actually still here because of three LA dudes who, thanks to their shared passion for nostalgia and imaginative experiences, first got together in 1999 to revive past-their-prime destinations, as well as entire neighborhoods, through carefully restoring key establishments.
Boys Town (from left): Dmitry Liberman, Bobby Green and Dimitri Komarov are bringing hip vibes back to old Hollywood.
“We were just three young guys in our mid-20s hungry for something fun and challenging to do,” says designer and creative director Bobby Green, who partnered with Dimitri Komarov (CFO and operations) and Dmitry Liberman (operations and business development) to open the throwback Bigfoot Lodge in an authentic log cabin near Sony Studios in Culver City. “Now, 20 years later, we’re not much different, just older!” Fun fact: Their taxidermy-studded lodge concept reminded Green of one of his favorite TV shows, Twin Peaks, and it’s been a full-circle experience—David Lynch has filmed inside several times for show promos.
La Cuevita, a Highland Park dive for tequila and mezcal lovers.
“We aim to take on projects that are authentic and beautiful,” says Komarov, who adds that they go above and beyond to seek out original pieces in keeping with a particular era, shunning anything modern. The threesome was the first to draw dive-loving tequila and mezcal drinkers to Highland Park, with La Cuevita in 2003. They reimagined a circa 1933 bar in Palms as Oldfield’s Liquor Room (named for the vintage speed racer who was the first to drive a car at 60 mph) and resurrected Highland Park Bowl, LA’s oldest bowling alley and former Prohibition pharmacy in the now-hopping neighborhood they helped to establish as cool. This month (running through February 2019) brings a mashup collaboration, Sanrio’s Gudetama x Highland Park Bowl, comprising bowling balls, pins, socks, wood-fired pizzas and cocktails emblazoned with the beloved lazy egg, all sure to introduce the establishment to a new crowd of Industry hipsters.
1933 Group's latest project will return Formosa Cafe to its legendary heyday.
1933 Group’s pace is only quickening in the next year, when the gentlemen will reveal their reincarnation of the historical Tail o’ the Pup, a 1946 roadside hot dog stand that’s long been a dream of Green’s. Additionally, there’s the buzzed-about redo of famed celebrity hang Formosa Cafe. Its acquisition “was the hardest we’ve ever had to work to get a bar,” says Komarov. “We all remember the place during its heyday in the ’90s and felt it was the one project our group needed to have in our portfolio.” The legendary Golden Age institution has hosted such patrons as Warren Beatty and Bono, Lauren Bacall and Kim Basinger. While they’re updating electrical and plumbing out of necessity, they aren’t straying far from the original vision. The trio spent time poring over plans, historical documents and the structure itself, plus talking with the family of the original owners in order to honor the initial intent. “Hollywood will embrace Formosa Cafe because we are not trying to change it, just improve it and bring it back to what people remember the place to be—but better,” says Komarov. They’re creating a memoir book dedicated to the history and unknown Hollywood stories of Formosa Cafe too, pulling from decades’ worth of boxes of memories and memorabilia. Says Green, “I find that no matter what we do—lighting, sound levels, materials used—when it comes to old bar haunts, it’s the ghosts and spirits that truly create the feeling you get when you step inside.”
Photography by: DMITRY, BOBBY & DIMITRI PHOTO BY WILLIAM BRADFORD; FORMOSA CAFE EXTERIOR PHOTO BY SUE HWANG; LA CUEVITA PHOTO COURTESY OF 1933 GROUP