“D.W. Griffith used the lot that El Cid now stands on in 1915 to film scenes from his famous and controversial film Birth of a Nation. He then went on to use the space to screen the film, supposedly charging $2 a show: an outrageous price at the time.
In 1925, the building was converted into a Jail-themed café, complete with waiters dressed as guards and prisoners. Even the stone wall along Sunset Boulevard resembled prison walls complete with a watch tower.
In 1932, the café was bought and turned into the Gateway Theatre, and then between 1950 and 1961, it operated as the Cabaret Concert Theatre. The Cabaret Concert Theatre was a favorite nightspot among television and film producers, talent scouts, agents, and celebrities, who came to eat, drink and enjoy a wide variety of sophisticated revues, plays, and concerts.
On December 7th, 1962, Flamenco dancers Juan Talavera and Margarita Cordova, along with her husband Clark Allen, opened the venue as El Cid. The three wanted to open their own Flamenco hub after working at the Purple Onion for the past six years and decided to remodel the building in the style of a 16th-century Spanish tavern. Talavera described the vibe they were going for as “Spanish, but not just American trying to be Spanish.”