We had the good fortune of connecting with Ben Sharpe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ben, what is the most important factor behind your success?
El Cid is a magical place with now over 100 years of history. We’ve been doing shows for pretty much this whole time, so it is not uncommon to have people come up to you and tell you a story or memory of theirs at El Cid from many years ago that’s really meaningful to them still.
I have hosted weddings of couples that met at DJ nights here, 1st birthday parties for babies whose parents first date was here in one of our booths, and anniversaries of couples who’ve been coming to the Flamenco show since before I was born. This is my fifth year in the space, so I am by no means new (however in truth, the real veteran of the space is our server Fidel, who has been working at El Cid for over 40 years.) but almost daily I talk to someone whose favorite LA memory took place at 2am on our dance floor over a decade ago well before I ever arrived.
When I put in perspective what this space means to so many people, it is truly humbling. The collective experience is so much bigger than myself.
So, to finally actually answer the question, the key to our success is to remember that this is more than just a business, it is a family, and the memories created here mean so much to so many different people.
I have the pleasure of working with so many fantastic show producers, employees and patrons that give the place its beautiful heartbeat. I think all of the people involved in our shows get the feeling that they’re participating in something bigger than themselves, and that they will carry a piece of these memories with them for a long time to come, and I think that is pretty special.
What should our readers know about your business?
El Cid is most known for our Flamenco dinner show on Saturdays, which is really the foundation of the establishment, however we are so much more than that.
While we have not been able to do shows the last year because of the pandemic, we have been fortunate enough to open our beautiful outdoor patio daily for dinner and have really expanded our operations as a restaurant during this time.
We are incredibly excited to reopen for shows in mid June, and are in the process of filling up our calendar with events.
I think what excites me the most about El Cid is the complete flexibility of the space to do whatever kind of event you want and make it incredibly unique and cool. It’s an over 100 year old brick building that has barely been changed since its initial construction, and from the moment you walk down the stairs and into the patio you know that you are in a special location. A space like it truly could not be recreated in the modern world.
If that isn’t already cool enough, the variation of our shows just combines with the aesthetic of the space to create a whole new vibe. We have a monthly Witch themed occult burlesque show. That is already crazy enough, but throw it in a 100 year old, rumored to be haunted, building, and you have something truly one of a kind. Then, that is over at 9:30pm and by 10pm the Witch’s den has been transformed into a disco dancehall.
The building is the beautiful bones, and the events that we bring in are able to use those bones to create something truly unique. 1 + 1 here does not equal 2, its not even 3, probably closer to 4. I’m joking, but really the whole is so much greater than any of the single pieces could be on their own.
What I want the world to know about El Cid is that we pride ourselves in trying to do any and all styles of entertainment. So, if you’re a viewer, take a look at our calendar as more events start going up, and I am certain we will have something up your alley, or if you are a producer, do not hesitate to reach out and see what we can make happen.
Last year, I hosted the LA Opera for a very special series of nights. There has been so much cool stuff held at El Cid, it is rare I get to check a “first” box, but that was a big one for me. Whenever I get a chance to do something in El Cid for the first time, that no one has ever done before, that really excites me.
When it comes to different types of events, I feel like Noah with his animals on the arc, I want a set of each type. And I think by doing that, we have created a really awesome, inclusive space and a place that is unpredictable in the best way.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well I would obviously bring them to El Cid, but I think that’s cheating as an answer!
Specifically, I used to personally produce a monthly screening night over at the spot called Silver Lake Shorts that was free to submit to and free to attend that got some really fantastic projects to show with the directors and producers in attendance. I’m really excited to be bringing that back eventually, and always have a great time being able to bring friends and family to my night when they are in town.
Outside of my spot, I am really excited for the small comedy venues to open up again. When I first moved to LA, popping over to UCB for a show at the last second was always a blast. I remember the first time I ever went there Kumail Nanjiani did a drop in set for a $5 and I was sold on the scene. I am also extremely excited for the New Beverly to reopen. I love seeing the more obscure old movies there.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout is to my mentor and friend, Sire Johnson.
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2015, I was bussing tables at Los Globos where Sire was the GM and planning on looking for a film internship or job. I got an internship that turned out to be a bit of a scam situation and was a bit discouraged, so I asked Sire if I could be his assistant and from their I haven’t really looked back.
Everything I know about booking a venue and filling up a calendar I owe to him, and so much more about life and humanity as a whole. I could not have asked for a wiser soul in all of Los Angeles to take me under their wing. As I have moved to different clubs, and finally to El Cid, he is always who I have gone to for guidance.
I spoke before about how the memories and moments created in the clubs are so much bigger than ourselves, this is something that I learned from him. I watched him embody that philosophy every day and night, creating a special experience for every person that walked through the doors of the club.
Now, he is in Africa working on humanitarian projects, trying to make the world a better place in a different way. He is a one of a kind individual that I am truly blessed to know.