King Eddy's reign as family-owned saloon to end after more than 45 years
Dustin Croick, stands next to photos of his father and grandfather, all of whom have ran the King Eddy at different points in time.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Downtown dive bar the King Eddy Saloon has recently been bought by the team behind the Library Bar and Spring Street Bar, ending the decades long reign of the family-owned business.
The historic 5th and Los Angeles watering hole is currently run by 26-year-old Dustin Croick, who took over the bar more than three years ago straight out of college. Croick's father and grandfather had run the location before him, keeping the Downtown dive in the family for decades.
Croick's grandfather, who moved from Chicago to L.A. in the '60s, began buying parking lots in Downtown, and in 1967, bought the King Eddy on 5th and Los Angeles streets. Dustin started coming to the bar with his dad when he was 5 or 6 years old.
"Going to work with your dad was just the coolest thing in the world back then," he said. "I'd actually sit at the bar and try to order beer...I'd actually get a glass of milk or a soda or something."
Years later Croick's father was in a bad car accident, spurring his son's takeover of the bar. Croick's grandfather showed him the ropes quickly, but it took a little longer to convince the regulars that the 23-year-old owner wouldn't ruin their favorite bar by turning it into "every other place Downtown."
The King Eddy began as and has remained: a blue collar, working man's bar, said Croick.
"It has the history," he said. "Not only history-history, but family history."
The bar is decorated in a hodge-podge of neon beer signs, with an indoor smoking area and a pint-sized kitchen that still churns out hot dogs, chicken wings and the like. Drinks are cheap and the bar opens early at 6 a.m. By noon, there's often more than a handful of patrons inside.
"It's different than any other place in Los Angeles... which is something that I take pride in," said Croick. "It's not something that a lot of people would because they come in here and they see a place that's beat up, and it's a rough area -- but you walk in this bar and it's like, once you walk in this bar you forget where you are in Los Angeles."
Recently the entire King Edward Hotel, which hosts the King Eddy, was bought by developers. Although the Croicks were willing to make upgrades to clean up the bar, they could not sign on to the almost million dollar investment that the developers would like to see in the space.
"Anyone in this position would think that I'd have really hard feelings and be pissed about it, but I'm really not," said Croick. In fact, he added, everything's been "very cordial."
"It was just a matter of two different visions," he said.
Croick acknowledged that the "times are changing" in Downtown and that the developers would like to see the new King Eddy reflect some of those shifts -- so the owners of almost 50 years decided it was best to go their own way.
"The King Eddy to me will always be one way, and to change it to something that it's not just isn't something that me nor my family would like to pursue."
But Croick said he trusts new owner Michael Leko and his partners, and believes the new guard will "respect the tradition" of the King Eddy.
"I think if anyone can blend what the King Eddy was, is, and will be, in the right way, I truly truly believe it's Michael and their team," he said.
In addition to the regulars, and the "ball-busting" and greetings of "hey kid how's it going," Croick said he'll miss seeing the bar manager, Bill. He said Bill was like an uncle to him, and has been the "heart and soul" of the place for 30 years.
But the Croick's are embracing the end of their era, and plan on throwing parties and events leading up to their closure.
"Its not a depressing thing, it's something we want to embrace and have a lot of fun with," said Croick.