The Time Has Come for The King Eddy Saloon

Photo via Paul Bartunek.

'The time has come, the walrus said'. Or, perhaps, the whales, as big-money businessmen Michael Leko and Will Shamlian are set to close the much-beloved King Eddy's Saloon on December 16th. After decades of quenching the thirsts of downtown's Skid Row denizens without so much as a day off, perhaps the last true dive bar in the area will be padlocked and shuttered for a dusting off next week. What the bar will come to look like under the guidance of the folks who brought us Library Bar and Pizza Urbano remains to be seen.

One thing is guaranteed: it sure won't look like it does now. Leko and Shamlian are known commodities in the restaurateuring game, with a knack for varnishing up outdated spaces to appeal to younger, hungrie crowds -- sometimes at the expense of a bar's original charms. And even if the pair wanted to use what's already there, they won't be able to; current owner Dustin Croik is selling it all.

While you can still drop in for cheap pitchers of beer and well drinks that won't even set you back $5, the banners, baubles, neon signs and gritty bits of history are all set to be auctioned off to the public on closing night, December 15th. Until then, longtime patrons and interested newcomers are encouraged to stop in and "Drink the Eddy Dry," as Croik has aptly named his closing ceremonies. The King Eddy team looks to swallow every last drop from their storeroom between now and their doomsday, with an array of drink specials and daily deals.

So, as KCET asked back in August, what's really to become of the King Eddy Saloon? Only Leko and Shamlian know for sure, but the prevailing sentiment is 'something different.' We do know this: it's the end of an era for downtown Los Angeles, and that sort of change always brings mixed emotions. The rejuvenation of the downtown core has certainly brought work, local business and tourism to a long-ailing part of the city. Yet, local hangouts like The King Eddy Saloon can't always ride the waves to prosperity, or stay out of the way of crashing tides. Perhaps if we'd all been longtime patrons of the oldest liquor license bar in L.A., there would have been no discussion of selling in the first place. Yet even with the old black barstools packed with hipsters and a line out the door, the King Eddy wouldn't have felt the same. So, perhaps the December 16th closure of an L.A. institution is the best solution to a tough situation, handled by two men with a history of downtown success. After all, when it comes to death, you can't take it with you. But if you show up for the auction at King Eddy's on December 15th, you might be able to hold onto a piece of the old place for a while.

The King Eddy Saloon
131 East 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

About the Author

Farley Elliott is a freelance food writer and comedian. He currently writes for KCET.org, SeriousEats.com, LAist.com, and L.A. Weekly. You can catch Farley doing comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Hollywood.
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