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Couple offer a change in L.A. Arts District

Peterson, Gower have ambitious designs for area

“From Santa Monica to Venice to Hollywood to here, my motto has always been to be the first in,” says veteran nightlife impresario Elizabeth Peterson about bringing dining, service and live music into the once-forlorn southeast edge of downtown Los Angeles. “I like to drop it into a community in the middle of nowhere and change the block.”

Peterson and partner Tony Gower’s baby, Royal Claytons, is a welcoming watering hole at the edge of downtown’s Arts District.

The couple has two other venues just a short drive away — the red-lit, mirrored Bordello (formerly Little Pedro’s) and the Bridge, an indoor/outdoor beer garden slated for an August opening.

“Downtown is so much more refreshing,” Gower says. “It’s raw and yet there are so many interesting people. It has a much more low-key, cooler vibe and is less pretentious (than Hollywood).”

Their gothic-styled, neo-pub may be newly opened, but the partners bring to the project a seasoned perspective on what pencils out profitably in Los Angeles’ ultra-competitive restaurant/bar/venue biz.

While Royal Claytons’ block has echoes of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, with the stylish Biscuit Co. Lofts just across the street, the surrounding area is still predominantly industrial and zoned accordingly. The restaurant/bar is carved out of a corner of the ground level of the Toy Factory Lofts’ building.

The decor, designed by Silver Lake’s Dana Hollister, is a mix of old and new, featuring stained-glass windows plus vintage ink-black doors and light fixtures, sculpted wood columns and a (free) pool table.

Peterson says downtown benefits from “great bones and a freer palette.”

She points to two iconic projects that helped reposition and initiate the current downtown revitalization: the San Fernando Building at Fourth and Main, developed by Tom Gilmore, and Andre Balazs’ Downtown Standard Hotel. Both projects promised, and delivered, the ability to socialize — fundamental to reviving the long-dormant downtown core.

Downtown’s transformation is confirmed, says Gower, by the numerous people walking their dogs and the almost startling presence of joggers — seemingly ordinary activities but unlikely in the area even six months ago.

The couple are so confident of downtown’s viability that they have another project in the works — a 13,000-square-foot modern speakeasy slated for Fourth and Main.

“There’s no other part of the country we want to open businesses in than downtown Los Angeles.”

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