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STREET LEVEL

Grounds for a lofty encounter

March 11, 2007|August Brown

WHETHER it's the bustle of weekday markets or the eerie, desolate quiet after dark, downtown L.A. drives people to coffee. Keeping pace with the scores of grupsters colonizing renovated lofts, a handful of scrappy independent coffee shops are creating a cafe culture.

At 14 months old, the Bishop Gourmet and Coffee was one of the first. A 300-square-foot nook at 8th Street and Grand Avenue, the store takes advantage of the fact that many of its customers live upstairs.

"People always move downtown and then gripe that there's nothing here," said Suze Lewis, the Bishop's owner. "We give residents somewhere that's concerned with them."

Lost Souls, a cavernous cafe and performance space tucked into an alley off 4th and Main streets, hosts open-mike nights and has cheerful Pop art on its concrete walls. First Cup Caffe at Spring and 3rd streets has a large, somewhat formal dining room. Then there's the new branch of local chain Groundwork at 2nd and Main streets, geared toward the coffee connoisseur, with a Minimalist/industrial look.

Competition is fierce: Cafe Cafe at 2nd Street and Broadway shuttered its doors last month, its "Grand Opening" banner still hanging.

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-- August Brown

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