You would think that a barfly’s favorite nights to hunch over a sticky slab of wood would be the weekend, when the place is rolicking with payday patrons getting nice and soused. Not so, my fine friends. Monday is the night I cherish most. Then, the dives are home to the locals, the denizens that have put in the time and talk to truly earn their stool at the bar. As much fun as tipsy ladies and lads can be, my heart belongs to the barstool poets and prophets. As the novitiates nurse themselve, I’ll be nursing a Jack and Sprite.
On one such wandering in one of LA’s no-man’s land I came across The Monty Bar. Nestled on the edge of high-priced downtown apartments and skyscrapers, and MacArthur Park, where 1930’s LA with its bygone hotels and apartments that would have catered to LA’s more wealthy citizens and travelers. Now it is one of the great regentrifying experiments of the city, where hipsters and homeless coexist in relative peace. As such, this watering hole has a truly eclectic clientele.
To call The Monty a dive (on an aesthetic level) is a stretch. On the outside with its simple red on whiote signage and wood paneling, one could be justified to expect an array of macro-brews and well liquor, drenched in the cold neon glow of beer signs and a wall-sized digital jukebox. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion, but you’d be wrong. This place is beautiful. It was originally opened in 1910, and is the epitome of a renovation done right. They kept the original bar and vaulted ceilings, and added some flocked wallpaper giving The Monty an air of a clandestine hall for those in the know. Yet, it is the complete opposite, with zero pretense welcoming all who enter as a proper dive should. They spent some time on the lighting too. Just the right amount of a warm, ambient glow which really accentuates the bar and shadowy booths. Intimate and yet open, it is a truly difficult feeling to pull off, and they have.
Above the stage at the end of the hall hangs a buffalo head with a singular spotlight on it, watching everyone and everything. There is the slight feeling of being in a saloon stuck in the desert, the wild west theme accentuated with flocked wallpaper and velveteen curtains. Add the various taxidermy, and a portrait of Charles Bronson alla Once Upon a Time in the West, with sparkling light dancing from the disco ball and you’d swear you were in cowboy heaven.
As any dive is welcoming to all, the music program at The Monty is just as encompassing. The Monty is home to live music on the weekends, offering everything from punk, experimental music, rock, and even one-man bands. The barkeep told me that depending on the venue, this place can get “weird, in a good way.” Looks like I’ll have to come back on a weekend.
Until then, I simply leaned back against the bar and soaked up the unique air of this place. I skipped my next Jack and Sprite and went for a straight JD, a very generous pour at that. I took a sip to deeper immerse myself in the spirit of this hidden gem, as a melancholy harmonica played in my heart.