There's something special about Club Tee Gee — odds are, it's your favorite neighborhood bar you haven't visited yet. It's hard to describe, but you feel it once you step inside. It’s kind of like Cheers, but a little dimmer, more intimate. A lone bartender serves up cocktails and the jukebox is on. Most people at the bar are regulars. There’s a palpable history here, a certain midcentury elegance that belies the bar’s 70-plus-year existence. But it’s also no-frills — unpretentious to say the least. Somewhere between a dive bar and a cocktail lounge, it boasts $5 Bloody Mary Sundays and is cash only.
For a stretch of town as trendy as Atwater Village, it’s truly a neighborhood spot — a slightly older clientele, mixed with younger hipsters. So there was alarm when it was rumored to be closing. Its longtime owner, Betty Barlotta, died in February 2016 — without leaving a will.
“Everyone in the family wanted a piece of the action,” bartender Roger Munson said. He's been serving cocktails at Tee Gee for nine years and has lived in the neighborhood since 1977. “One of the nephews wanted everything. Bob [Bob Kick, Betty’s partner] said, ‘I’ll sell the bar, and you guys divide it up.’”
The owners of Echo Park bar the Short Stop stepped in and bought it — ownership officially changes hands on Sept. 1. The new owners couldn’t be reached for comment, but Munson said there might be some renovations coming. Nothing is official, however.
Munson's not sure if he and the other bartenders will be kept on when the new transition happens, but he thinks so. “Nice guys,” he said of the new owners. “They get along with Bob. They said he can hang out here for the rest of his life and drink for free.”
On a recent Tuesday night, ’80s music was blaring on the jukebox. A baseball game was on. The half-moon booths were mostly empty but the bar itself was decently full. “All these people,” Munson said, “I know all their names. They’re regulars.”
Club Tee Gee, as far as Munson knows, is the oldest standing bar in the neighborhood — it was opened in 1946. Only the Bigfoot Lodge (formerly Mr. Mike's) and the Roost come close.
In a city that’s often criticized for being too of-the-moment, Club Tee Gee feels enduringly genuine. It deserves to be around for another 70 years.
3210 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village; (323) 669-9631.
Correction: This story has been amended to correct the date of Betty Barlotta's death.