The threat had been hanging over downtown's drinking scene like an unpaid bar tab for sometime now: How long before historic dive King Eddy's Saloon would be closed down for a remodeling at the hands of it's new owners, Michael Leko and Will Shamlian (Library Bar, Spring Street Bar, Pizza Urbano, Coffee Bar)?
It looks like Dec. 16 will the last day for the old King Eddy's Saloon, a dive bar whose divey-ness puts all others to shame; where the official motto is “Where nobody gives a f**k about your name”; where beer costs $2.50 and well drinks $3. It's the holder of the longest operating liquor license in Los Angeles, built on the ground floor of the 120-year-old King Edward Hotel. During Prohibition it was briefly turned into a piano shop — with a secret speakeasy hidden in the basement, of course.
Authors John Fante and Charles Bukowski were once known to drink here. (In Fante's novel Ask The Dust, protagonist Arturo Bandini blows his first writing royalty check on the call girls slumming in King Eddy's basement.)
In a rapidly modernizing downtown, King Eddy's is the last true Skid Row watering hole. It's gritty, cheap and as hard-boiled as the pickled eggs behind the bar. These days it's home to trash-talking bums, red-faced city workers, smoke-wrinkled cougars and the occasional Arts district loner soaking up the ambiance, all of whom are slowly accepting the grim reality that King Eddy's will likely soon resemble Cole's up the street, an upscale bar whose dusty historical charm was buffed to a high, gentrified shine.
Current owner Dustin Croik has launched what he calls “Drink the Eddy Dry,” a 24-hour happy hour where prices are slashed even further on house specials, shots and beers. On Dec. 15, the bar's last night, Croik will also hold a live auction to sell off the trinkets, banners and neon signs accumulated along King Eddy's walls.
For those looking for a more historical perspective, the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) will be hosting free walking tours of the 20's-era basement speakeasy and underground tunnel system, led by Croik and social historian Richard Schave. Reservations can be made at lavatransforms.org starting Thursday, Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. An RSVP is required and space is very limited.
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