For a city as flashy and, well, obvious as Los Angeles, it’s surprising there are any speakeasies at all. The fact that there are enough of them to seriously shake up LA’s nightlife scene is downright dumbfounding. Yet, that’s exactly the case.
Knowing they’re around however is only the start. The next step is finding them. And with LA as spread out as it is and speakeasy locations at the bottom of hidden stairwells, behind unmarked doors and at the end of alleyways, it’s certainly not easy. Here, we spill the beans on some of the best speakeasies the city has to offer and, more importantly, how to get into them.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s
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When it comes to LA speakeasies, it’s more than likely you’ll hear twins Mark and Jonnie Houston come up in conversation. The duo behind Houston Hospitality owns a good chunk of the city’s offerings and Good Times at Davey Wayne’s is their most well-known establishment.
It’s located in Hollywood with an insanely creative entrance (TripAdvisor reviews will reveal it) and certainly lives up to its name. After all though, how could good times not be had when you’re socialising in rooms that look like they’re straight out of The Brady Bunch, listening to live bands and licking alcoholic snow cones supplied by a bar in an Airstream trailer?
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As you might have guessed by the name, Pour Vous is French themed. To be more specific, it’s a Parisian-inspired nightclub complete with all the typical trimmings you’d expect from one – think burlesque dancers, live jazz and velvet banquettes.
Though if we were to share exactly where to find it, we’d be doing a disservice to its patrons. We can tell you it’s near the intersection of North Gower Street and Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. When you’ve located it, slide into a booth and treat yourself to a glass of bubbles. You’ll have earned it.
The newest and arguably the most cleverly named on this list, Employees Only LA opened in West Hollywood in April this year. And the LA outpost of the world-renowned New York City bar is already getting rave reviews.
Past its decoy entrance (a psychic reading room), you’ll find its Art Deco-themed restaurant and bar space. The best part about it at all is that the psychic is legit, so after a night of delicious food and even tastier cocktails, you can get a reading on your way out.
The Varnish is the most well-established bar on this list, having opened back in 2009. It’s also probably one of the most hidden, found behind an unmarked door of landmark saloon Cole’s French Dip. Somewhat of a speakeasy itself, Cole’s can be found in Downtown LA.
Once inside it, look for a discrete door. Behind it, a refurbished storage room plays home to The Varnish. The dimly lit venue with intimate booths features strong cocktails by some of the city’s most lauded bartenders. Live piano jazz plays Sunday to Wednesday. Arrive early as it gets packed quickly.
Lock & Key
In case you missed it, LA’s Koreatown has become one of LA’s ‘it’ nightlife areas. It’s there that you’ll find a red-painted door on South Vermont Avenue, which opens into an alcove with an Alice In Wonderland-like wall of doorknobs and keyholes.
Turn the right one and you’ll arrive at Lock & Key. Best described as a dapper lounge, the space is small, seemingly even more so with its low ceilings. But that only makes it feel more private. Take a seat at the bar or at a high table and order yourself a cocktail. They’re good here.
A Victorian-era school-turned-mansion provides a fittingly eclectic backdrop for the mayhem that ensues nightly at No Vacancy. Tightrope walkers and burlesque dancers take to the stage and music acts, including Skrillex, Florence and the Machine and Diplo, have all performe here.
Yet another Houston Hospitality property, No Vacancy can be found in the heart of Hollywood. Though its address is listed online, the exact entrance is kept secret. Once you’re in the vicinity however, it shouldn’t take too long for you to work it out. Word of advice? Just go with the flow.