Swinging Doors — Los Angeles’s Early Houses

Say what you will about Los Angeles but it’s unlikely that anyone has ever described it in earnest as a “city that never sleeps.” It is not, in other words, Barcelona, New York City, New Orleans, or Las Vegas. There are 24-hour businesses in Los Angeles, of course, mostly restaurants. When I was younger, I occasionally would leave a club and have supfast at Astro Family Restaurant, Canter’s Deli, or Fred 62 For the most part, though, most neighborhoods are pretty quiet by 2:00 and you’re more likely to be awoken during the witching hour by a great horned owl or tireless mockingbird than someone stumbling home from an after hours noraebang.

After years of unnecessary research, it finally dawned on me that almost nothing worth staying up for ever happens between midnight and 2:00. After that, a secret world awakens in Los Angeles’s wholesale districts like the Flower District and Produce District that most Angelenos never experience. I have, for years now, fully embraced life as a morning lark. When it’s still dark and quiet, Los Angeles is often comfortingly blanketed in a thick marine layer. If you wake up after it burns off, you’ve missed out on what feels like a secret version of the city. Watching a full moon set when it’s still dark is a special thrill for a morning lark. For a night owl, it’s a moment of panic — especially if one has to work in a few hours. Los Angeles sunrises are every bit as beautiful as our sunsets so experiencing both, instead of just the latter, feels like being spoiled.

I suppose, if you want to be both a morning lark and a barfly, there are those bars that open before most Angelenos are thinking about breakfast — what are known as “early houses” in Irish English. “Early house” is both elegant and innocuous sounding and I wholeheartedly propose that we adde it to our vernacular. Across California, last call is supposed to be at 2:00. A 2017 bill designed to allow them to remain open until 4:00 was shut down by then-governor Jerry Brown. It seems that “first call,” as it were, can be no earlier than 6:00. There are exceptions — all located within Los Angeles International Airport — where some open as early as 5:00. So if you need a drink between 2:00 and 5:00… well, you have more than one problem, it would seem.

For the purposes of this article, then, I am only including bars that open at 6:00 or earlier. There are quite a few bars which open at 7:00 or 8:00, which is earlier, I think, than I’ve ever gone to bar — but too many to mention unless you want to, ahem, support me on Patreon so that I can devote more time to researching bars. If you become a Patron, I will also try to add Orange County (The Beach Ball, FLOE Lounge, Harvey’s, The Huddle, The Hy Roy Lounge, The Juke Joint, Kit’s Place, Lucky John’s, Paul’s Cocktails, The Post Bar, Shooters, The Sportsman Bar, Tony’s Place, &c) or the Inland Empire‘s early houses.

Lest you get sniffy about people going to bars early in the morning, there are jet-lagged travelers, third shift workers, daywalkers, louche rakes, hotel business travelers, World Cup watchers, and suburban retirees with no pressing obligations for whom it is, in my mind, perfectly respectable to have an alcoholic beverage when most of the rest of us are brewing coffee or tea — or, perhaps, “waking and baking.” However, you don’t need to be waiting in line at for an early house to open to find their existence interesting. Besides, just because a bar opens at the break of dawn doesn’t mean that you have to show up when they open. Most remain open until 2:00 the next morning, after all. There’s something about them though, because ultimately, they’re not the oldest bars, nor are they necessarily the best bars — but they are the earliest bars — and they’re more likely than most bars to have popcorn and that’s… something.


THE BACK DOOR LOUNGE

Pomona‘s Back Door opens daily at 6:00. The building in which it’s housed was constructed in 1959. There’s a pool table. In the 1960s and ’70s it was home to Elli’s Lounge. Over the years it featured numerous performers including the Joe Sanchez Quartet, Shane Dominic, Hal & Ray, The Aladdins, Eddie Joe Downs, The Ree-Bill Duo, The Larry & Jerry Duo, Joe Garlin, Billy Webb and Donnie Rohrs, Pete Sottile, King, The Double Trouble (Rob and Bill O’Neill), The Personables. By 1993, and perhaps quite a bit earlier, it became the Back Door Lounge.

The Back Door Lounge is served by Foothill Transit‘s 195 and 480 lines.


BLU2O

BLU2O opens everyday at 5:30. It’s a cocktail lounge inside Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 6 so you’re probably not going to pop in unless you’re traveling. It was founded by Boston-born chef and restaurateur, David Myers and there’s a menu of bar bites. Despite the fact that it opened around 2015, the subdued and antiseptic vibes with blue lights and silver balls reminds me of the early-1990s. and The fact that it’s a bit pricey seems to shock a fair few Yelpers who’ve apparently never patronized another airport establishment in their lives. BLU2O closes at midnight.

Terminal 6 is served by Advanced Air, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, and Horizon Southern Air (Mokulele).


BRANCH OFFICE

Torrance‘s Branch Office opens each day at 6:00. It was founded in 1963. It has electronic darts, an internet jukebox, a vending machine, several televisions, a pool table, a ping pong table. There’s also a kitchen that serves steak, chili, chicken, and tacos.

Branch Office is served by Torrance Transit‘s 1 Line.


THE BRITISHER

The Britisher opens every morning at 6:00. It’s a British-themed bar located in a strip-mall called Lancaster Plaza. It has plush, green booths, karaoke, electronic darts, televisions, and a popcorn machine.

The Britisher is served by AVTA‘s 1, 9, and 94 lines.


THE CASTLE

Manhattan Beach‘s The Castle opens ever day at 6:00. You have to respect a wood-paneled bikini bar with such a lofty name. It apparently opened in 1981 but if that date is correct seems likely to have been another bar before. The kitchen serves American pub grub — steak and eggs, hamburgers, breakfast burritos, Philly cheesesteaks, French Dip sandwiches, &c. There are numerous televisions, a pool table, and a ping pong table.

The Castle is served by Metro‘s 232 Line.


COZY INN

Cozy Inn was established in 1959 and opens its doors every morning at 6:00. It has electronic darts, shuffleboard (as advertised with a large sign outside), a jukebox, televisions, and pool tables. It used to feature live entertainment, including acts like the Buddy Noble Duo.

Cozy Inn is served by Culver CityBus‘s 6 Line.


THE DESERT ROOM

The Desert Room opens its doors in Gardena everyday at 6:00. It opened around 1950, when it was known as Daniel’s Cafe and had within it an area designated the Desert Room. By the mid-1960s, it was Daniel’s Desert Room. Not long after, it was shortened to the Desert Room. It has televisions, a library, pool, a popcorn machine, and live blues on Sundays.

The Desert Room is served by GTrans‘s 1 and 3 lines.


DRAWING ROOM

According to different sources, Drawing Room either opens either at 6:00 or 8:00. According to a neighbor of the business, though, “sometimes they keep the bar open all night.” Drawing Room probably opened in 1972. The strip mall in which it is located was constructed in 1968. An ad, however, was placed in 1972 using the same phone number the bar has today for a cocktail waitress. And 1972 was the year after (or same year, according to other sources) the similarly quasi-British Ye Rustic Inn opened across the street.

From 11:00 – 5:00, Drawing Room is served by LADOT’s DASH Observatory/Los Feliz Line.


FIRST CABIN BAR

The First Cabin Bar opens every day at 6:00 in Arcadia. It features televisions and live music. It’s been open since at least 1981, when two patrons were stabbed outside after being ejected for challenging all comers to a fight.

The First Cabin Bar is served by Metro‘s 179 and 287 lines.


THE GREATEST

The Greatest opens every day at 6:00 in Hawthorne. It was apparently established in 2000. The Greatest has darts, pool, televisions, and a selection of potato chips.

The Greatest is served by Metro’s 211/251 Line.


HI-BROW

Hi-Brow opens every morning at 6:00, There are two locations, one in Upland and the other in Pomona. It has televisions. It was founded by Thaddeus “Ted” Lach around 1971 and is sometimes still referred to as Ted’s Hi-Brow. Ted died in 1991.

Hi-Brow is serviced by Foothill Transit‘s 188 Line.


THE INTERLUDE

Long Beach‘s The Interlude opens every morning at 6:00. It has televisions, pool tables, electronic darts, hotdogs, and Buffalo wings.

The Interlude is served by Long Beach Transit‘s 91, 121, and 173 lines.


JUSTICE URBAN TAVERN

Justice Urban Tavern opens every morning in 6:00. It’s a hotel bar located inside DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown. It closes, therefore, very early — at 11:00. It opened around 2014 and has a full menu of New American cuisine and several televisions but being a hotel bar, it’s decidedly less seedy than most earlyhouses.

Justice Urban Tavern is served by LADOT‘s 534 and 600 lines; and Metro’s 30 Line.

MICHEAL’S PUBS

Micheal’s Pub opens every morning at 6:00. It supposedly opened in 1991 but must certainly have been a bar before that. It has televisions, countertop games, a pool table, electronic darts, and live music.

Micheal’s Pub is served by Metro‘s 152, 154, and 224 lines.


POGO’S

Pogo’s opens every morning at 6:00. It opened in 1966. The kitchen makes typical Southern California pub grub like nachos, taquitos, Dodger dogs, burritos, mozzarella sticks, tuna melts, &c. There are televisions, a jukebox, and pool tables.

Pogo’s is served by Metro‘s 169 Line.


POOR RICHARD’S COCKTAILS

Poor Richard’s Cocktails opens every morning at 6:00. It’s located in a strip mall called Palo Verde Square. It has a jukebox, a lottery machine, free peanuts, and a cabinet arcade game.

Poor Richard’s Cocktails is served by Long Beach Transit‘s 172 Line.


REILLY’S IRISH PUB

Reilly’s Irish Pub opens every morning at 5:00. It’s an airport bar located inside Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 1. It has lots of televisions and a menu of salads, wraps, sandwiches, sliders, &c.

Terminal 1 is served by Allegiant Air, Southwest, and Sun Country.


ROCKS & BREWS

Rock & Brews is a chain pub founded in 2010 by former concert promoter Dave Furano and his brother, Dell. It has locations in Terminal 1 and Terminal 5 (amongst other locations outside of airports). The Terminal 1 location opens at 4:00 and the Terminal 5 location at 5:00.

The Terminal 1 location is served by Allegiant Air, Southwest, and Sun Country. The Terminal 5 location is served by Air Canada, American Airlines, JetBlue, and Spirit.


RUBY’S TEMROSE

Ruby’s Temrose opens every morning at 6:00. It was apparently established in 1970. It’s also known simply as Temrose. It has a bubblegum machine, a countertop game, a jukebox, pool tables, televisions, and live music.

Ruby’s Temrose is served by Metro‘s 267 Line.


SEAHAWK COCKTAIL LOUNGE

The Seahawk Cocktail Lounge opens every morning at 6:00. It has karaoke, televisions, a jukebox, electronic darts, a pool table,

The Seahawk Cocktail Lounge is served by Long Beach Transit 91, 93, 103, 111 and 112 lines, and Metro’s 265 Line.


SEALEGS WINE BAR

Sealegs Wine Bar opens every morning at 6:00. There is a location in Huntington Beach that opens much later. The Los Angeles International Airport Location, is located in Terminal 2. The menu also includes New American items like salads, truffle fries, wagyu burgers, ceviche, and that sort of thing. There are televisions.

Terminal 2 is served by Aerolitoral, Aer Lingus Airlines, Aeromexico, Delta Air Lines, and West Jet.


TRACY’S BAR AND GRILL

Tracy’s Bar and Grill opens everyday at 6:00. There’s a menu with items like chili Colorado, steak, baked potatos, wedge salads, club sandwiches, &c. There are televisions, pool tables, live music, video game cabinets, &c.

Tracy’s Bar and Grill is served by Long Beach Transit‘s 91, 93, and 104 lines.


Support Eric Brightwell on Patreon


Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
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 ContemporaryForm 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 KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson Collegeand the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubithe StoryGraphand Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s