The Past Revealed

Autobar History revealed

It’s hard to imagine the typical dive bar with a radically different past. Some were actually classy nightclubs, others were cafes or bar and grills. You can still find some with ‘cafe’ still in their names, but most changed the word to ‘bar’ or just dropped either word from the name. You may even see a kitchen area now and then, some with dusty appliances but most have been gutted out to make storage space or to increase occupancy.

And what’s the deal with boarded up facades? For security perhaps but surely for privacy. A lot more than drinking was going on inside the bars – drug use, drug dealing, prostitution, gambling, infidelity. I’ve been to some places with old photos displayed on a wall or behind the bar – photos of the bars past, usually with glass instead of todays wood.

The photo above was taken as the boards were being removed from the closed Autobar in Silverlake in order to turn it into a restuarant. I lived above the bar, renting a tiny unit from the owner that purchased the property in the 1920’s. Starting as an autoshop, it later operated as grocery store before turning into a small nightclub, changing names many times before being boarded up to become the Autobar. It closed in the mid 2000’s, being one of the first casualties of gentrification.

The property owner chose to cover the windows on both sides rather than replace them with walls, thinking some day in the future, the windows would be desired again. Leaving the graphics on the glass, that became a special treat to those in the area. I may be wrong but, guessing from the style of art and the type of dancing, I’d say it’s from the 60’s – about forty years before once again seeing the light of day. The place may have been called the Sherwood Forest at the time.

There were talks of preserving the window, but it was too difficult and expensive.


The window was located at the far left of this 1920’s picture when it was still an autoshop.




The Story of Jalisco Inn Bar on Main Street


The bar has gone by several names – Jalisco Inn, Jalisco Cafe, Jalisco Inn  Number 2, and The New Jalisco Bar. Remaining open during the work, the bar is going under a renovation, revealing a long hidden ceiling and opening long closed-off rooms. Happy Hour is Monday through Thursday til 7PM, with drink specials other times and no cover on weekends. Mostly Latino crowd.

Research – Robert Cabuto
Photos – LAPL and Robert Cabuto

NEWS – Name Change and Temporary Closure

After decades of being on First Street in Boyle Heights, Nuevo Carioca has become Tenno, a Mexican and Japanese Family Restaurant with Cocktails. I hope someone saved the old neon sign – they just dont make them like that anymore – notice the plain flat sign that replaced it.

Also in the news, Jalisco Bar in downtown was closed temporarily for health code violations. This doesn’t shock me because even the best, cleanest, and newest places can have problems. Luckily it was opened and offering cheap beers again.

NEWS – New Paint Jobs

A few bars got paint jobs recently. At first I thought they were copying the 4100 Bar in Silverlake and the Shortstop in Echo by painting over everything with solid dark colors, but it turns out there were other reasons besides following a trend. Pictured above is Costena and 5 Stars Bar in Downtown LA. They hadn’t been painted in years, so they probably needed it. Not long after I took the early Sept 2010 picture, Costena Bar surprised me with a new design pictured below. I’m wondering if 5 Stars will do something new, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Halfway down the block, Jalisco Bar went through a similar transformation.

A different story happened at Little Joy in Echo Park. It went from very plain, to overdone, to extremely plain. The first two photos are thanks to two other blogs. The third photo I’m embarrased to say is mine – the camera just wouldn’t focus. It turns out the city made them get rid of the mural because it violated sign laws. The bar has not closed down, there just isn’t anything indicating the name of the bar. Even the two signs that hung on the corner are gone – I think they said something like Cocktails, Rec Room, Fun Room, or Play Room – I can’t remember but I do miss them – leaving only the sign for the restaurant next door.

Boyle Heights Police Hangout

Like Villa Sombrero in Highland Park, and the Shortstop in Echo Park, the cops in Boyle Heights also had a hangout. The bar was called Jack’s Place and was located across from the Hollenbeck station on First Street. From 1954 to 1986, Jack Goldstein owned and served drinks in his small dive bar. Before it was Jack’s Place it was a seedy tavern closed on a narcotics violation – I didn’t know bars were seedy in the 50’s. Jack got rid of the front window to give patrons privacy. The building now, doesn’t show any signs of windows being covered like many old dive bars today. I suppose the previous bar front may have had large windows like the business to left of it and a major remodel turned it into the plain brick facade with only a tiny window left. Or the building may have always had only a tiny window which Jack covered and painted the letters JPH on it. I wonder what those letters stood for? Perhaps Jacks Place Hollenbeck, Jacks Police Hangout, Jacks Pool Hall…anyone else have any guesses? Sadly after Jack’s Place closed in 1986 due to Jack’s health problems, the location has not been a bar again – in 1987 it became a sportswear store and today offers community pregnancy services.  In the old photo note the old sign of the neighboring business – the sign is still there today with the letters CASA SANDO’S and an illustration which I can’t make out painted over. *Thanks to the L.A. Times for some of the details and the black and white photo.

Death of Eastside Neighborhood Bars

How times are changing. The list is long why neighorhood bars are closing at an increasing rate: The bad economy, large screen tvs, pool tables and cheap beer aavailable at home, ICE, the internet, MADD, gentrification, gangs, etc. What we are losing is not just bars but the storys they tell inside. Some bars have been around for decades. Some with little change to the interiors that it’s like walking into the past when you enter the door – maybe the 80’s, 70’s, 60’s or beyond.

Here are some bars on the real Eastside that are no longer open. Many I had been to. Some I discovered too late. Some are waiting to be transformed. Some the contractors have already made them into something new.

Starting in the Northeast, Mi Barra, just a stones throw from the California Nigth Club (that’s the way it’s spelled on the sign) has been sitting like this for years. I remember For Sale signs posted on the exterior many years ago. Maybe its sold now just waiting for permits to knock it down or gut it out.

Here’s a bar I went to once about 5 or 6 years ago. I remember the chill atmosphere, cheap beer and food which was great for someone like me who likes to eat when drinking. By the time I got around to taking a pic, it was closed down and even the signs were removed. I never got a chance to ask it’s name.

Here is the location of the long ago closed gay bar Bon Mot on Figueroa. After 2 regulars were killed by alleged gang members and the LAPD refused to do much about it because they didn’t give a fuck about two fags, this bar birthed a civil rights movement to combat the problems.

The former Lesbian bar, Bobs Plush Pony, seen here in it’s new incarnation on Alhambra Ave in El Sereno. I never got to go there but I heard it was a rough place where men weren’t received well.

Moving South into Boyle Heights, I’m not sure when this one at Chavez and Evergreen closed but I remember driving around the area and seeing it open many years ago. That was when I was afraid of the area and didnt venture into any bars. A 1987 Phone Book names it as Club Copas de Oro. In 1973 it was El Porvenir Club. In 1969 it was the Five Points Cafe.

Just down the street was Diamante, at First and Evergreen. This was the second bar in Boyle Heights that I went to. It was one of the few still open after midnite, so the group I was with left one closing bar and found this gem of a dive bar. (I should write for the local news). This bar had two rooms – one to sit and drink – and the other to play pool or pinball games. I dont know of any other bars in the area with pinball machines. The bar was recently transformed into a check cashing business.

Now in the Southside of Boyle Heights, there once was The Olympic Bar, just to the west of Indiana Street. It had always been closed when I went past it while on the bus to work and back. I got excited once when I saw the roof being repaired and even caught a glimpse of the pool table inside. When the work was done, a For Rent sign went up, mentioning a bar as a posible use. Unfortunately it was rented to a church group and the small letters that said the name Olympic Bar for many years were painted over.

Crossing the border into East Los and just a few blocks away from the Olympic Bar are the remnants of two bars on Union Pacific, Tully’s and Franks. I’m relying on my dad’s memory who told me of the goodtimes he and his buddies had after a days work at Zellerbach Paper Company (now a 99 Cent Only distribution center) across the street. The bars were rough in those days, he said. The locals claimed the bars as their own, not even considering employees from across the street as locals. Faded paint on the wall still shows the name Tullys, while the grey painted building that once was Franks is now a Piloncillo company.

In East LA there are 3 bars rotting away. The El Amigo Bar, the Smog Room, and one that I can not find the name anywhere. It has every appearance of a bar, including the giant satelite dish on the roof. Oddly a few months ago the exterior lights were turned on even though I have never seen the bar open.

And finally two out of the Eastside area. First is the Twin Gables. A bar at the eastern end of Olympic Boulevard in Montebello. I went there a couple times during my lunch break when I worked nearby. By then they just served drinks, and not the fine food like advertised on the tiles. And by the time this picture was taken, not even drinks were served – a fence was erected to keep cars out and the sign at the edge of the parking lot was removed. Hopefully the owner kept it as a momento.

Finally here is what’s left of Karlas Bar on Pacific in Huntington Park, having closed and in the process if becoming another business. The interior was long and narrow and the bar was one of the longest I had ever seen. Beyond that there was even room for a pool table. However I found the staff to be a bit rude.

I know I got fascinated with bars too late. I’m sure that there were a lot more that I don’t even know about that were great places for locals in their day. I drive past certain buildings that have clues that they may have been bars. I wish I had a hot tub time machine to find out for sure. Until time travel becomes a reality I will settle for stories.

News August 2010

It’s been 2 years since I worked on this blog. Blame it on me getting a car and losing the bus trips where I had time to explore my surroundings. Or blame it on my change of job which gave me less time. Or blame it on me just being lazy. Whatever the reason, I have been re-inspired to do it again.

Excuse me if I start out slow. I know I’ve already wrote about Club Chapala before, but it is local and easy to snap a pic of. So first in the news is about the new paint job the owner gave the building.

Gone is the dark green paint and the mural of the cock fight. (see previous posts). The owner said she painted it because she thought it looked ugly before. I thought it definetely looked unique. Also new is a repaved parking lot, but the best thing is a new younger crowd that enjoys music, dancing, drinking and playing pool. I have been going with friends and having good times.

So keep looking for new posts, and comment as much as you want. That will encourage me to do more.