The King Eddy Saloon is located in the once fashionable hotel hub of Downtown on 5th and Los Angeles Street called "The Nickel." The bar is a microcosm of LA itself. A secret spot in a city with few secrets. Novelist John Fante drank here. He set the scene of his novel Ask the Dust in the basement of the King Eddy. Novelist James M. Cain also was known to hang out at the Eddy while researching his book The Postman Always RingsTwice. Later, poet Charles Bukowski drank at the Eddy in the swinging 60s and 70s.
The Biltmore Hotel 1925 Pershing Square forground
Downtown Los Angeles had tremendous commercial growth in the early 20th century,that brought with it hotel construction—during this time period several hotels, the Alexandria (1906), the The King Edward (1906), Rosslyn (1911), and the Biltmore (1923), were erected—the need for venues to entertain the growing population of Los Angeles also increased.
The King Eddy Saloon is one of the oldest pubs in Los Angeles, what some call an authentic dive bar... The saloon was built along side the King Edward Hotel. The saloon operated in downtown as a respectable night spot until prohibition.
In the roaring twenties the King Eddy was the center of the illegal alcohol and bootlegging trade in Los Angeles. The saloon became an infamous speakeasy that was created in the basement of its present location.
Ryan manager of the King Eddy examines of the murals from the basement speakeasy days of the King Eddy. The Eddy was moved beneath the ground floor to the basement. The former saloon was leased out to a piano store. Patrons would knock on the back door of the store, give a password and then enter the 2,000 square foot basement to enjoy a drink in Los Angeles.
The King Eddy basement had a 130 foot long tunnel that connected to a network of service and utility shafts across downtown Los Angeles – perfect for deliveries of bootleg liquor. The eleven miles of tunnels were built in 1910 for the hotels in the area to avoid street congestion in downtown's growing business district.
Smaller tunnels branched out from the main shaft to the hotels and businesses, where goods were stored in basements and various storerooms.
Ryan opens the former speakeasy cold storage where beer was kept in the King Eddy 130 feet access tunnel next to the basement.
After prohibition ended in 1933 the upstairs space was converted back into the saloon and dive bar we know and love today. The basement of the King Eddy is still intact.
King's Eddy's liquor license, which is probably one of the oldest in the city, dates back to 1933. The genuine pretense-free demeanor of the patrons and staff seemed to draw an eclectically fashioned crowd. The Eddy is still flourishing in the new growth and revitalization of the downtown area. The King Eddy is planning to refurbish the former speakeasy and make it a lounge in the style of the 1920s.
Imagine looking back upon the relics of decades past, on a room mostly untouched for generations. Filled with random knick-knacks that have accumulated over the years. The basement murals of kegs and cops on the brick walls from the 1920s, something to spruce up the dim room during times of revelry. Rusted machinery, and broken brick line the basement of the King Eddy Saloon that was once L.A.s most notorious speakeasy.
For more information on the King Eddy check out this video which gives a brief history of the pub and interesting and historic downtown area: