A Toast to History: Bars by Los Angeles' 1933 Group Take You Back In Time
Step inside one of 1933 Group’s bars, and you’re taken back to another time and another place. The Los Angeles-based bar proprietors are responsible for some of the city’s more interesting drinking spots, including the newly restored Highland Park Bowl, which we highlighted in the Fall 2016 issue of Preservation magazine. But that Prohibition-era bar and bowling alley is just one in a long line of theme bars the group has created.
“In the beginning, our thought was, ‘Let’s just open really cool bars,’” says 1933 Group’s Bobby Green. “But I think in every place we’ve done, we’ve looked to the past for inspiration. I’ve never been interested in doing anything modern.”
While many of 1933 Group’s bars rely on re-created architectural features and old-timey decor to create a historic atmosphere, a few of their spaces have fully embraced the original architecture. Here, we take a look at some of those old buildings and the new bars inside them.
Oldfield’s Liquor Room
Named for world-renowned speed racer Barney Oldfield, the first man to drive a car at 60 mph (among other feats), Oldfield’s Liquor Room in Los Angeles’ Palms neighborhood opened in 2011. But drinks were poured in the space long before then.
“Before we started the remodel, and before we came up with the theme for what this bar could be like, we did a bunch of research to find out what the building was and what it looked like,” Green says. “And we found out it was one of the first bars to open in 1933 in L.A., so it was one of the first legal licenses to be had after Prohibition.”
Green and his colleagues studied old photographs and found that the building originally had a lot of small windows, which had been covered up in later remodels. They uncovered them, then they added white subway tiles to the walls, a curving bar with French bistro barstools, and tables arranged in intimate clusters throughout the space. Dapper bartenders, dressed in vests and ties, serve classic cocktails along with rotating seasonal drinks. The result is a comfortable and casual yet slightly upscale neighborhood bar.
“We wanted it to look like it did circa 1933, when it opened,” Green says. “And it came out beautifully. It has such a great soul to it.”
10899 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034
Open Monday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The small rustic-looking building on Los Feliz Boulevard that has housed Bigfoot Lodge since 1999 was built sometime in the 1920s. And while it wasn’t historically significant, per se, Green says its architecture—the ceiling, in particular—fit in with his vision of creating a bar with a lodge-like atmosphere. He and his team revamped the space, adding a faux fireplace, plush booths, and kitschy cabin décor (think antlers on the wall and a Sasquatch statue) to bring a bit of wilderness to Los Angeles’ Atwater Village neighborhood. And the sentiment extends to the bar menu, too. Bartenders pour drinks with names like Roasted Marshmallow and Scout’s Honor.
3172 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90039
Open Monday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
You can’t possibly miss Idle Hour in North Hollywood: It’s the giant, barrel-shaped building on Vineland Avenue. It’s been a fixture in Green’s life since childhood.
“I grew up in L.A., so I saw that building all the time,” he says. “It attracted me because it was so different. Even when it was kind of covered up and hard to see, you just knew it was a unique building. You knew it must’ve been cool back in the day.”
Built in 1941, the redwood building exemplifies programmatic architecture, which rose to popularity as car culture took hold in the United States and business owners looked to create storefronts that would be eye-catching to passing motorists. This barrel-shaped building sold beer. In the 1970s, it was turned into a flamenco bar. It closed in the 1980s and fell into decline. It was later threatened with demolition, but it won Historic-Cultural Monument status in 2010 (thanks to the help of Los Angeles magazine editor and preservationist Chris Nichols), which spared it from the wrecking ball.
In 2011, Green and the 1933 Group team purchased the building and launched a three-year restoration, using old photographs to bring the building back to its original 1940s appearance. It reopened in February 2015, serving up a taste of classic Americana.
4824 Vineland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 91601
Open Monday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.