The Place: Monty, 1222 W. 7th Street, Los Angeles.
The Hours: 8 p.m. - 2 a.m.
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SHOW ME HOW
The Digs: When we heard that Rio Hackford's new Westlake spot Monty was "hot" back in July, we assumed that meant it had swung open its doors, that when we arrived, mugs shimmering in the low golden light would stud the long bar, that the arched ceiling would reverberate with the howls of happy patrons burrowed into the booths. While the door was open -- and its guardian inspected our driver's license very seriously -- we were literally alone when we walked in at 11 on a Friday night. Two bartenders compulsively wiped down the bar. The jukebox blared Pavement at an unnecessarily high volume. As he cracked open a refreshing can of Olympia for us to down, one of them explained that, while Monty was serving drinks, the bar hadn't really opened yet.
An actor and the son of Ray director Taylor Hackford, Hackford has a hand in nightspots from San Francisco to New Orleans. An October 2010 Blog Downtown post revealed that Hackford intended, at least at the time the piece was written, to re-open Monty, once a decrepit dive with cheap drinks and mariachi performers, as a "macho, no bullshit" kind of place. If the interior is any indication -- those thrones bubbling up with shiny leather, the semi-circle of amber windows high above the door, the textured ceiling, the columns behind the bar -- the goal has been achieved, though with a class and grandeur not normally associated with bullshit of the macho variety. The space is pretty stunning, reminiscent of a train station, a hangar, a great hall perhaps, where nobles and courtesans might plunge Excalibur-sized blades into the haunches of unidentifiable roast beasties and slosh around great horns of mead until they collapsed face-first into their bowls of pudding.
The Verdict: With a sly marketing campaign -- a light buzz that emanates from everywhere and yet nowhere in particular -- a bar can earn a reputation before it opens. Of course, despite the efforts of owners, designers, and PR people, a bar's identity, its place in the city, isn't just shaped by the people who run it. They can pick the paint chips and stock the iPod, but the crowd that is sought is not always the one which arrives to infuse the space with spirit and character. Now that Monty really is open, the bar is no longer theoretical, even if no crowd in particular is exactly beating down the doors at 8 p.m. Nonetheless, the stage is set admirably, though a few interesting drafts would be nice and maybe some sort of snack besides popcorn from the bright little machine awkwardly hugging one wall, winking out into the vast darkness like Rudolph's nose. We'd push for a beastie, roasted rare.
Final Grade: Incomplete, but looking good.