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Online Exclusive - Rudy's Can't Fail Café, Oakland, California

Oct 16, 2012

The new Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café in Oakland, California’s historic and recently restored Fox Theater continues with the original restaurant’s “diner on acid” theme, and is—good naturedly—all punk, all the time. From the name itself (borrowed from a Clash song) to the design process (many involved likened meetings to “jam sessions”), the diner is deeply rooted in rock ‘n’ roll culture.

Daniel Scovill and Irene Yu of Oakland-based Arcsine Architecture worked closely with the client and production designer Rika Nakanishi to design the 4,200-square-foot space—a huge jump from the 1,800 square feet of the original Rudy’s in Emeryville, California. Many of the typical challenges of building a restaurant were addressed in the initial restoration of the space, and according to Scovill, “it was really about how to use this funky space, that normally would be six or seven smaller spaces, as one.” The team brought together the various distinct dining zones in such a way that from any vantage point, guests can see the entire interior; they also brought the bar to the middle of the restaurant and reworked the restrooms to add a private room with secret hallway that leads into the Fox Theater.

Yu adds that lighting was chosen to bring down the height of the ceiling to a more pedestrian level. “The busyness of the floor [a large-scale black and white zigzag pattern] and artwork also helps keep the small, diner feel while making use of the entirety of the space.” Other cozy elements include a “roadie” airstream diner car and the eye-catching, 40-foot-long glowing Barbie display case.  

Another highlight is the tables, done in resin epoxy embedded with toys and memorabilia from bygone days: there’s a marble table, a Green Day tour table (a reference to one of the restaurant’s owners, Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt), and even a Star Wars table. “We had a table-making party with the whole team and their families one night,” remembers Scovill. “And basically it was bring toys from your youth that were meaningful and let’s make some furniture.” And art pieces, including a series of monkey portraits, were done by students at the Oakland School for the Arts. “Every element has its own story,” says Scovill.


hdtalks: the interviews

During HD Expo 2014, Hospitality Design’s Michael Adams sat down with HBA’s Michael Bedner to talk about his half-century in the hospitality design industry. View the video.



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