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A facelift to The King Eddy Saloon leaves bartenders and regulars with mixed feelings

By Andrew Lopez
Published: Friday, April 06, 2012, at 12:35PM
Andrew Lopez

The King Eddy Saloon is located on the corner of 5th and Los Angeles streets.

The King Eddy Saloon, which prides itself on being considered the last true dive bar in Los Angeles, might be getting a whole lot less dive-y in the coming months.

With the recent purchase of the Baltimore, Leland and King Edward hotels, developers Bristol 423 are intent on cleaning the area up, including the historic saloon.

Major changes will include renovating the bathrooms, restoring the giant glass windows looking out onto the streets and raising the ceiling to its original height, which would match the lobby of the King Edward around the corner.

“In the end, I think this is a positive,” said Leo, a bartender at King Eddy’s.

Leo said the perception of the bar as an old-time dive keeps a younger, livelier crowd from spending their evenings there. But if they do stop in, it’s only for a drink or two before they head somewhere else, he added.

The new improvements will create a more welcoming atmosphere which will hopefully attract a younger clientele in, Leo said.

But some of the regulars aren't as optimistic about the changes.

Frank, who said he’s been coming “seven days a week” since moving into the hotel in the late '80s, isn’t sure he will be sticking around for the changes, but admits he doesn’t know where that leaves him.

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” he said. “That’s the whole problem. This is the last reasonable bar, [price-wise].”

Another regular customer sitting next to Frank, who wished not give his name, agreed and said it felt as if everything was happening too quickly.

One change that has the regulars weary is the prices of the drinks. Everything has gone up at least a dollar, with higher end beers going up $2. Currently, it'll cost you $4 for a bottle of Bud.

Leo contends that prices were raised because the bar's rent was raised, and says their liquor is still cheaper than just about anywhere else in Downtown.

You can't get good liquor anywhere else as cheap as here, he said with pride.

Still, Leo thinks that a balance can be made between the youthful resurgence of Downtown and the nostalgia that many of the regulars are grasping onto.

“You can make a dive bar nice," Leo said. "There will always be room for these old-timers."


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