The last days of King Eddy?

Los Angeles is thought to be a city infatuated with the bright and shiny, the new and youthful. So, how to explain the King Eddy Saloon?

Los Angeles’ King Eddy Saloon, opened in 1933, has been called the “holy grail of dive bars” and sits on the border of the city’s skid row and a rapidly gentrifying downtown.

This downtown-Los Angeles watering hole, on the corner of Los Angeles and 5th street, has been open and serving drinks for over 90 years. Over the decades, it has not only survived business booms and busts, but also Prohibition. When the country went dry, owners of the King Eddy kept the bar wet by opening a rollicking speakeasy in the saloon’s basement storage room. In the decades since, the King Eddy has proudly embraced its reputation as the Holy Grail of Los Angeles dive bars, welcoming generations of customers looking for an honest drink at a good price in a place without a hint of pretension or posing.

Listen below: The Changing Face and Personality of Downtown Los Angeles

But what changing tastes and the passage of time haven’t managed to end, downtown gentrification might. The Croick family, which has owned the King Eddy since the early 1960s, has decided to sell the bar to investors Michael Leko and Will Shamlian. Leko and Shamlian are well known for buying up some of downtown L.A.’s choicest historic properties and turning them into boutique businesses for young, stylish urbanites moving into the neighborhood. The owners promise they’ll keep both the name and spirit of King Eddy alive, but regular customers fear the bar that has welcomed them their entire drinking lives might become unrecognizable. The story of the King Eddy is the story of a changing downtown. We’ll talk more about this, and gentrification, on tonight’s Which Way LA?

“This is different than all the other bars I’ve worked at” says bartender Irene Rivera.

Bartender with the morning regulars

King Eddy’s owner on how this is the only true dive bar in the area. “It’s a blue collar working man’s bar.”

Dustin Croick is one of the owners of King Eddy. His grandfather bought the bar in the 1960s. He feels ambivalent about selling the tavern.

“I really like it here, it’s full of real people”

Ann Marie, a regular customer at King Eddy, worries about what will happen to its employees after the change of ownership.

If you’re looking for pricy craft beers and experiments in mixology, King Eddy might not be your place. Budweiser, going for $2,50 a bottle, is the beer of choice.
Younger people flock to King Eddy in the evenings, but during the day the older regulars rule the barstools.