Swinging Doors — Los Angeles Train Pub Crawl

Swinging Doors

The train-enabled bar crawl is surely as old as the train itself. The first public transit line in Los Angeles was the Spring and West 6th Street Railroad, a railway founded in 1874 which served Downtown. Surely some bright 19th Century Angeleno had the brilliant idea of using the horse-drawn railcars to carry them from saloon to saloon. Los Angeles’s primary modern rail systems, Metrolink and Metro, have both been in service for more than a quarter of a century now, so hopefully, Angelenos in modern times have also taken advantage of the train to take them from bar to bar. Nevertheless, the first mention that I can locate of a “subway bar crawl” dates only from the distant year of 2011, when someone at the backpacker site, This Boundless World, published “Los Angeles, CA: A Guide to Subway Bar Crawlin” in which the well-meaning author made several suspect claims, including that “The L.A. subway is the safest and cleanest subway in the world,” and that one could use the Red Line to go bar-hopping in “Los Feliz/Silver Lake.” The linkage of Los Feliz and Silver Lake perhaps lends rail-served Los Feliz a bit of Silver Lake’s cultural cache and also suggests that one can use the subway to bar-hop in rail-deprived Silver Lake. In actuality, the closest train station to Silver Lake is located at the intersection of Hel-MelLittle ArmeniaSunset Junctions, and Virgil Village — and whilst the rail-riding bar hopper can easily walk ten minutes to a leather bar, Eagle LA, popping over to a Silver Lake bar such as Edendale would take more like 45 minutes… although that could easily be rectified if they’d rebuild the Glendale-Burbank Line.

In 2013, a couple of years after the backpacking piece, LA Beer Week organized its first Gold Line Pub Crawl. A year later, Jeff Miller made a map titled “LA’s First-Ever Metro Rail Bar Map” for the listicle factory known as Thrillist. Although the title was accurate, it’s cockiness perhaps invites a bit of criticism. It seemed to me a bit rushed and probably more based on laptop research than actually hitting the streets. What else could account for the absence of any bars at Hollywood/Western Station, the inclusion of long-closed establishments, and the exclusion of any picks for half of the Blue Line’s stops and 57% of the Green Line’s? Furthermore, the Silver Line and Orange Line were left off because they’re BRT and not rail. The editor snarkily countered (before anyone had made the point) “They’re bus lines. You mad?” Mad, no, but the idea that a transit-using bar-crawler wouldn’t lower themselves to use a BRT line strikes me as unlikely — and had the further effect of adding to the “Here be dragons” depiction of the train stations in largely black and Latino communities.

Not to be outdone (but clearly outdone), the LA Weekly soon followed with Andy Hermann’s “me too” piece, “Check Out Our Metro Gold Line Bar Crawl.” In 2016, the opening of the Expo Line Phase II Extension was toasted with an “LA Crawl” (cautiously neglecting to use the words “bar” or “pub”). Someone recently launched something called “L.A. Metro Pub Crawl,” which, although light on information, has a presence on several social media platforms. Five years after the first Red Line pub crawl piece, the Los Angeles Times’ John Verive wrote “How to plan a beer crawl along the Metro Red Line.” Three months later the same author penned “How to plan a craft beer crawl along the Metro Gold Line.” So far, it seems, no one has made a serious effort to undertake a pub crawl along the Blue, Green, Orange, Silver, or Purple lines — some of which admittedly pass through dreaded booze deserts. The Purple Line, though, passes through the third, second, and most densely populated neighborhoods of Los Angeles — Downtown, Westlake, and Koreatown. No one was written about a Metrolink pub crawl, which if distance is the goal, serves six Southern California counties and has a $10 weekend day pass. I won’t even get into the region’s hundreds of bus lines, which although not trains, are often convenient for bar crawls. 

For the purposes of this map, “bars” include saloons, dive bars, cocktail lounges, nightclubs which serve alcohol, izakaya, pubs, piano bars, breweries and wineries with tasting rooms, leather bars, pijiu wu, gastropubs, restaurants with full bars, hotel bars, gasthauses, wine bars, taverns, &c. It does not include coffee bars, hookah bars, tea bars, juice bars, sushi bars, bar-b-ques, or protein bars at which alcohol isn’t served.


Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in generating advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other varieties of spam. Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of Brightwell’s maps are available from 1650 GalleryHe is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiTwitter, and Weibo.
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2 thoughts on “Swinging Doors — Los Angeles Train Pub Crawl

    1. Thank you so much — it’s always nice to get feedback (especially positive). As for the Calvin S. Hamilton Pedway — I _might_ write a piece about unfinished transit projects (the 710, the 2, the California Cycleway, &c) soon… stay tuned!

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