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Demolition fears swirl as Corky’s diner closes

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It’s one of LA’s best examples of Googie architecture

A single-story midcentury diner with a swooping long roof and a neon sign of the restaurant’s name (“Corky’s).
Corky’s at 5043 Van Nuys Bouelvard in Sherman Oaks.
Liz Kuball

Corky’s, a Googie-style diner in Sherman Oaks—and a popular filming location and long-time local fixture—and its Cork Lounge will close this month, ending a decades-long run.

In a Sunday night post on Facebook, the diner announced it will shutter December 15, raising fears of demolition. It’s urging customers to press city leaders into making Corky’s a Los Angeles landmark.

But as of today, no plans or demolition permits are on file with the city.

“Landlords just don’t appreciate these unique style buildings and design,” the posting read.

A manager at Corky’s confirmed the closure to Curbed on Monday. A lawyer representing the property owner did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Corky’s opened in 1958 as Stanley Burke’s Coffee Shop. It was designed by Armet and Davis, the architecture firm behind many of LA’s most eye-catching examples of the midcentury style known as Googie. The diner’s deeply curved roof and Flintstone-esque rock facade details recall the popular architect of Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s.

Corky’s has changed hands and weathered makeovers numerous times since 1958. Sometime in the early 1960s, shortly after it opened, the restaurant’s name changed to Corky’s, Sherman Oaks Patch has reported.

According to Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography, Joel reportedly played the piano “for a few weeks” at Corky’s lounge, now called Cork Lounge, in the 1970s. (Joel says he was fired from the job; he responded by throwing a rock through a window at the restaurant.)

In the 1980s, the eatery became the Lamplighter, and it remained under that name until 2010, when the structure reverted to the name Corky’s and underwent a remodel to restore some of the original Googie features.

The site has been a filming location for movies and television, including 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and 2017’s Happy Death Day.

The Googie style’s exciting rooflines, neon signage, and space-age flourishes were meant to make car-driving passersby slow down and stop in. Since the term was coined in 1952, many of the most recognizable Googie structures, including the namesake coffee shop, have been demolished.