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Espresso Bar a Pick-Me-Up for Patrons

November 21, 1987|MICHELE SEIPP

Marc Lafia, 32-year-old screenwriter, taps his bright green '50s cup that's full of decaffeinated cappuccino ($1.75), and surveys the room of the Pikme-Up cafe.

"I love to come here and listen to the people talk," he said. "All their different realities . . . and I can be visible and just listen."

He then takes out his notebook and jots down some of the overheard conversation. Possible fuel for a future screenplay? Maybe. But Lafia seems more intent on being an observer--just for observation's sake.

"You stay here seven, eight hours . . . and you can see that people really circulate," he said, taking in the young men in ponytails and kilts, bilingual Europeans and scholars with big mop-headed hairdos.

Popular Sentiments

These are popular sentiments at the popular Greenwich Village-style espresso bar, which remarkably--because it has only been open since April--already has a strong following.

"We get a lot of regulars from the neighborhood," owner Tawny Featherston said.

One neighborhood regular, a young executive at Disney Studios, takes home piles of "must read" scripts every night. Rather than read them in the solitude of his nearby apartment, he just walks to 6th Street and La Brea Avenue and reads them in the swirling company of the Pikme-Up.

"It's a lot more comforting," he said.

Featherston, who along with partner Jerry McKenna opened the cafe "with no expectations," thinks the comforting atmosphere partly explains the Pikme-Up's success.

"Basically L.A. is so backward as far as espresso bars go," she said. "It's important for people to have an outlet where they can come and just sit by themselves, or talk and meet with different people in a creative environment. A lot of our regulars have made friends here," she added.

Either way, Featherston feels that it's important that her customers don't "feel they have to leave right away or be pressured to order anything."

Even though they don't feel pressured, certainly most lingerers end up sampling the tasty coffee drinks, which range in price from 35 cents to $2, and the light cafe fare, such as a bagel and cream cheese for $1.25 or a Brie plate for $2.50.

And the decor is fun. Mismatched '50s-style tables are littered with scrabble and Etch A Sketch--the nostalgic toys of the moment--unusual card games, corny cocktail napkins, kitschy plastic sugar decanters etched with a map of California and, of course, esoteric books and magazines--some of them in foreign languages.

Touch of Culture

Also, original artwork, which changes every four weeks, graces the walls and minimalist and/or hip music drifts in over the sound system. Amid all this, a waiter silently removes used glasses and cups and piles them onto a cafeteria tray you may find reminiscent of your elementary-school days.

Every other Sunday at 8 p.m., there are poetry readings, sometimes interspersed with acoustic guitar.

"We prefer to call it 'spoken word,' not poetry, because it's not always poetry," Featherston said. "We had one woman who read from her favorite newspaper clippings."

Hours are as relaxed as the atmosphere. Open during the week until at least 2 a.m., the Pikme-Up stays open on weekends until at least 5 a.m., "depending," Featherston said, "on how busy it is, and how tired the person behind the counter is."

"We like to say we open at noon-ish," she adds, "so if we're not here exactly at noon, it's not a big deal, it's OK."

The Pikme-Up, 5437 W. 6th St., telephone (213) 939-9706.

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