What Will Happen to The King Eddy Saloon?

Photo by Paul Bartunek
Photo by Paul Bartunek

What's in a name? For downtown's The King Eddy Saloon, perhaps everything - and nothing.

Often dubbed the last authentic dive bar in Los Angeles, the Skid Row staple is slowly preparing for a change of ownership, and that's got some folks nervous. Fans of the corner bar's grimy appeal are worried that new owners Michael Leko and Will Shamlian won't be as gentle with the aging space as time has been. Leko and Shamlian are in familiar territory with the purchase, having previously become partners in Library Bar, Pizzeria Urbano and a host of other revamped downtown spaces. For their part, Leko and Shamlian have expressed an interest to the LA Times and elsewhere that they would simply like to revive the sagging saloon with the purchase. If anything, it seems, the men would like to trade on its history against the backdrop of a revitalized downtown Los Angeles. What that means for the barstools and the patrons who frequent them remains to be seen. At least they're keeping the name.

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The history of The King Eddy Saloon goes well beyond Dustin Croick, the current owner who took over day-to-day operations from his father in 2008. Originally opened in 1933, The King Eddy has always served hardworking locals along one of the most plagued streets of Los Angeles. Men and women - well, mostly men - have been enjoying cheap well drinks and plastic pitchers of draught beer since before Croick was in diapers, and more than a few are still dropping by. These days, it's less about grabbing a pint, and more about taking one last look around. But the place still has quite a story to tell -- the Prohibition-era basement and tunnels are fascinating.

On an average weeknight, the crowds may not have changed since word spread of The King Eddy's impending sale. Old men still straddle the bar, glancing at a few television screens or warmly chatting up the bartender. Yet there is a growing sadness at the inevitable loss of an LA drinking institution, a fact that has manifested itself with a few special events over the course of the summer. July's Lit Fest was a celebration of the space's role in a few celebrated authors lives, such as John Fante and Charles Bukowski. A big closing bash is also planned in the coming weeks, just before the lease changes hands. For now, cheap beer is still the most popular menu item, and you don't need a reason to sit down with a plastic pitcher.

Until the lights turn off on Croick's family legacy later this summer, the dark walls will still hang proudly with sports banners and neon signs. Above the wraparound bar, a lifetime of trinkets have accumulated, from detailed steins and model cars to dusty t-shirts for sale on plastic hooks. Come this fall, those shirts may well be the only artifact left to truly do justice to the place. Fitting, for a place that heralds the slogan: "The King Eddy Saloon - Where Nobody Gives A Sh*t About Your Name".


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

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