Down and Out bar, at the corner of 5th and Spring (501 Spring St), has a comfortable and unaffectedly sexy feel, largely due to the spacious and deep upholstered red booths which ring the bar’s perimeter. The booths provide a good vantage point for some serious people-watching and combination slouching, although on New Year’s eve you may have to be both a regular drinker and friend of Down and Out to score booth privileges.
Many large tv screens adorn the room, so it’s a sport a bar too. Sports bars and dive bars never the twain should meet, and some may find the Down and Out a little too new to be a proper dive. Housed in the ground floor of the Alexandria Hotel, formerly owned by Charlie Chaplin. Down and Out opened 2009, after a forty-year or so run of the former Charlie Os.
Down and Out can hit the spot if you crave a downtown dive facsimile. Just come before crowds, strike up a friendly conversation with the folks in the next booth, tune out tv sports, order up your whiskey neat, and put your slouch to work. The bartenders are all professionals, and can mix any cocktail you desire, though the bar does a healthy trade in shots and beers, and is apparently the thirteenth highest volume Jamieson seller in Southern California, according to Chris Sheindler, General Manager. Eleven beers are on tap, from Pabst Blue Ribbon, to Fat Tire Ale, to a seasonally appropriate Chocolate Porter. Five standard cans stock the menu; from Tecate, to Miller, to Guiness.
Down and Out’s a large dark space, and in trendier hands the aesthetic could have read industrial. In its current incarnation, the bar has a mesh-draped black ceiling with exposed pipes, a low stage, wine-painted walls, and a smoking patio. A blow-up gallery of faux-perp shots from pop-culture’s classic bad boys and girls (Jane Fonda, Prince, Mick Jagger) serves as a signature focal design element and bar backdrop. You can get your own faux-perp portrait taken (as you enter to your immediate left), shoot pool (one table), or pinball (two machines.) The bar is long and gleaming, with polished wood and brass accents.
The Down and Out was closed four days in December for renovation. The bar which went through an aesthetic renaissance now offers new look. According to Sheindler, decades of remodels had fashioned Down and Out into a space resembling a 70s-era suburban New York basement. The concrete floor was uneven, and tiled in places, and faux wood panels haphazardly decorated the walls.
The builder, a downtown resident who manages remodels for television reality shows, mentioned a general “lightening and brightening.” The new decor will encompass a hardwood floor, a softly reflective, textured gold wall paint, and extensive new light fixtures. These include a chandelier over the pool table, new sconces on the back walls, and additional pendant lights over the bar, also touched with gold and burgundy. Finally, those classic booths will be reupholstered in a darker design, but with a softer feel. In March, management will continue its upgrades by adding central air conditioning in anticipation of summer.
When I went for a drink there, good dubstep served as happy hour soundtrack. As the night progressed, the soundsystem switched to a poppier/greatest hits mix of 80s punk and new wave (Cure, the Police, Clash, Moby.) According to Chris, within an hour you’ll hear something you like. Down and Out books rockerish live bands and dj dance parties. As of writing this article, still no word on who is booked on New Year’s eve. However, all of the booked djs are, “full range djs”, and their crates encompass a 21st century musical aesthetic. In other words, an eclectic array of rock and funk and beats and party music, without a singular focus on club music. According to the manager, a good-time dance party is this bar’s feature, so expect that, regardless of who djs.
Down and Out bar has carved a downtown niche as a down-to-earth hangout for groups, gangs, friends, dates, and/or solo drinkers. Their design renovation is a conscious upgrade to make the bar more welcoming. Mixed crowds are locals, after-work drinkers, and Angelenos from further afield who are out on the town on weekend nights. Down and Out won’t deviate too radically from its tried-and-true on New Year’s eve. They plan to stock some better-than-usual champagne, and to giveaway a glass with which you may toast 2014. You can reserve one of the eight booths for $100, with a bottle of champagne. There’s no cover charge, and there is a balloon drop. There is no dress code, but it is suggested that you up your style for the night, to make a memorable night out. The bar’s capacity is 300, and expect the place to be full, with maybe even a wait to get in. A second back-bar will open to handle the customer crush.
Down and Out bar is open 365 days a year, and New Year’s eve hours are normal bar hours, 11am-2am. Security at Down and Out is known to be hands-on, so be cool, get down, and even out at this bar’s New Year’s party.
Down and Out also opens at 10am on January 1, with $5 day-long Bloody Mary’s, and a full complement of New Year’s Day football on tv. There is no food menu, but the Bloody Mary’s come with a slim-Jim and green beans.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for booth reservations.