15 Speakeasies You Need To Visit In LA

While recent years may have brought a resurgence in speakeasy trends flooding the Los Angeles basin, secret bars are nothing new to the City of Angels. LA speakeasies thrived in the Prohibition era, when there were an estimated 30,000 in business (double that of legal bars before liquor was outlawed). Some of these original hideaways were so well-concealed they're still being discovered in the clandestine basements and hidden walls of mansions in the Hollywood vicinity.

With a network of defunct electric railroad tunnels – the city's main transit system before its infamous freeways — these extensive man-made caves positioned LA as a prime location for smuggling goods and persons. They were ideal for ferrying illegal liquor and notorious gangsters — including Al Capone — around town. Today, LA speakeasies are favored by celebrities for the same reason they were frequented by outlaws 100 years ago: The privacy of a secret setting allows guests to be as incognito as the venue. Though the neighborhoods of Los Angeles are lately teeming with swanky secret bars where mixologists woo patrons with a full spectrum of the cocktail family, here is a list of some of the most unique, immersive, and unforgettable speakeasies that make up both the most well-known and best-kept secrets in LA.

1. No Vacancy

Operating out of a converted Victorian mansion just north of Hollywood Boulevard, No Vacancy conjures memories of Old Hollywood in a home that once belonged to Charlie Chaplin. The venue, a three-story bar equal parts intimate and opulent, is one of numerous LA fantasies created by the Houston Brothers, an entrepreneurial duo intent on transforming watering holes into other worlds. 

No Vacancy offers an undeniably memorable occasion before guests even set foot on the premises with an immersive, almost theatrical experience. The entrance is down a back alley where a retro "No Vacancy" sign for the Juniper Hotel emits a neon glow and leads guests up some unassuming stairs to a choice of three doors. One of the doors voyeuristically opens on a courtesan lounging on the bed, who reveals all for accessing the secret entrance.

Once admitted, this three-story bar with ample red-carpeted staircases, chandeliers, and fireplaces, suggests the revelry of a true Tinseltown soirée, with tightrope walkers above the back patio and burlesque shows on weekends. The bar provides a rotating 12-item cocktail menu with something for all palates, but there's also a selection of beer. The dress code is more guidelines than rules, but patrons might feel out of place if they don't come to match those who've arrived decked out in vintage garb for a full 4D experience.

2. The Varnish

Operating out of a glorified storage room at the back of the historic Cole's restaurant in Downtown LA, The Varnish is a bar within a bar, and sits on the premises of true Prohibition history — Cole's is the longest continuously operating restaurant and Saloon in LaLa Land. Originally Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet, it was a place where mobsters and politicians brushed elbows, holding court and cutting deals over French Dip sandwiches served au jus, which has made the restaurant as infamous as its former patrons. Though the saloon was "officially" out of commission during Prohibition, Cole's had enough booze on hand to sell 19,000 gallons of beer the same day California lifted its alcohol ban in 1933.

You'd never guess The Varnish was tucked behind the back door of this restaurant, which already boasts a mahogany bar. This storage room was where notorious gangster Mickey Cohen, a restaurant regular, once took people to rough them up. The space is dark and cozy — not much bigger than the closet it once was — and has become a favored incognito bar for celebrities. Though its entrance is unsuspectingly secretive, The Varnish's co-owner Eric Alperin clarified for Tales of the Cocktail, "We just enjoy subtlety." The same goes for the dress code; the bar states on its site that "Cocktail attire is admired, not required." Small but mighty, the venue accommodates live music on weekends, and hungry patrons can find ample fare by stepping back into the restaurant front.

3. Black Rabbit Rose

As magical as it is mystical, Victoriana vibes and an air of 19th-century mysticism turn this subterranean speakeasy into a trip to Wonderland. With leather seating, bistro tables, and red velvet accouterments, Black Rabbit Rose invites patrons into Belle Epoque ambiance with just a hint of the macabre. Another creation of the Houston Brothers, this bar and performance venue hosts magic acts on the weekends.

Guests can buy tickets to the showroom for the latest magic act, but simply lounging at the bar offers no lesser sense of wonder. Sleight-of-hand tricks happen in every corner of this place — from the entrance to the bar itself. "I like to think every seat is equally as important," Mark Houston told Life & Thyme, "and that goes for everything — food, plating, cocktails. It's all intertwined." But if the magic tricks don't find their way directly to patrons' tables at Black Rabbit Rose, the Bullet Catch cocktail is a showstopper itself. Made with dark rum, coffee, Green Chartreuse, and cinnamon, it's topped with coconut cream and a sprinkling of blue flames.

The dress code is strict — so dress to impress — but the setting is quaint, curious, and wholly welcoming. "We gear our places to be social environments where people can hopefully meet each other and get to meet new, like-minded people," Jonnie Houston added. "Even though L.A. is a big city, it's really small once you get in a community."

4. Bathtub Gin

Situated above a coffee shop on trendy Melrose Avenue, this secret bar was created with time travel in mind. Though fairly new to the LA Speakeasy scene, Bathtub Gin's antique decor transports guests back 100 years, into the heart of the 1920s. With no sign leading the way, it is only an unassuming door off Stone Street that brings visitors up to this second-floor sanctuary — once they reveal the password, that is.

Named for the homemade alcohol that defined the Prohibition era and true to the 20s theme, this speakeasy champions gin as its spirit of choice, and offers a full menu of artful gin and tonics. An outpost of the Bathtub Gin in New York, this venue has been acclimatized with LA culture in mind and incorporates local ingredients into its cocktails. 

LA's Bathtub Gin has an elegant, but homey setting, with a living room filled with Tiffany lamps and Chesterfields surrounded by more ornately wallpapered nooks in closeted corners. Furniture gets shifted around often to accommodate an array of live entertainment, including burlesque and musical ensembles. The Butterfly Room is available for small, private groups and houses a copper clawfoot bathtub (the inspiration for the bar's Jazz Age aesthetic) and a wrap-around balcony frames a timeless vista of the Hollywood Hills. Since the space can only seat up to 75 people, Bathtub Gin recommends reservations.

5. La Descarga

Venturing just north of Santa Monica Boulevard, a visit to La Descarga begins at the door of a bland apartment building in East Hollywood, where (so long as visitors make the cut) a doorman will direct them to a dingy staircase that leads to an underwhelming room. There, a hostess waits to provide escort into a disruption of the space-time continuum through a Narnia-esque wardrobe that teleports guests down a spiral staircase and a few decades back, into mid-century Havana. Aglow with candlelight and dusky chandeliers, there's a sepia tint to this speakeasy, and the salsa music keeps a high-energy vibe, giving the atmosphere a pulse.

"Not everyone can get to Cuba," General Manager Andrés Langhans told Los Angeles Magazine, "so we wanted to bring a slice of Cuba to Los Angeles." To evoke the Caribbean, this venue, another immersive Houston Brothers creation, has rum dominating the menu, live salsa on the set list, and an open-air cigar lounge out back. Fittingly, the Rum Old-Fashioned is La Discarga's signature cocktail, but its international rum selection also makes for classic mojitos. Many of the house-made cocktails incorporate ingredients that pay homage to Cuban flavor.

The dress code is fancy, requiring "upscale attire only." The venue's multiple dance floors attract a crowd of salsa-dancing regulars and the bar even offers salsa classes on Tuesday nights. But the most dazzling dancing here would be the weekend burlesque-inspired salsa routines, which culminate in performers twirling flames on the bar top.

6. The Del Monte

Hidden in Venice, a beachfront neighborhood in Westside Los Angeles, The Del Monte has been operating since 1915, making it one of the oldest bars in LA. Today, this basement locale is beneath another bar, Townhouse Venice, but the venue was a bonafide speakeasy during the Prohibition era. The Del Monte's contemporary return to secret bar status has tapped back into its illicit roots, and its tin ceiling, vintage atmosphere offers an authentic taste of what a true Prohibition night out might have been like.

Venice was an independent resort town until annexed into Los Angeles in 1926. This community was a prime hub for alcohol smuggling due to its proximity to the water, where ships from Canada could easily deposit contraband cargo. A network of underground tunnels brought the goods through a subterranean system from the former Abbott Kinney Pier straight to The Del Monte's door.

The original front for the speakeasy was Menotti's grocery store, which patrons accessed through a trap door hidden beneath the produce, where a dumbwaiter lowered guests two at a time into a secret gin joint. Since such covert operations are no longer necessary, today guests can set foot in The Del Monte via a simple staircase. This bar beneath a bar serves historically-inspired drinks, and while weekends may be livelier, "Jazz Flight Tuesdays" gets guests in for no cover.

7. Employees Only

Among a series of bars under the same name that have garnered world-renowned reputations, the Employees Only outpost in West Hollywood offers a unique Los Angelino twist. Accessible through a Psychic's storefront, this speakeasy is a modern adaptation of Prohibition's art-deco style and prides itself on being a full-service restaurant in addition to a bar. Some of the craft cocktails might even seem like meals in themselves, with elements such as sweet potato, lychee, and lemon poppy coconut cream featured with seasonal drinks.

Employees Only LA takes fresh, local ingredients to the next level, distinguishing its signature cocktails with herbs foraged from the nearest hiking trails. If it's too hard to choose from the list of handcrafted drinks, adventurous imbibers can opt for a round of "Spin the Bottle," which entails spinning a wheel hidden in a cigar box to choose the liquor, leaving the rest up to the whims of the bartender.

Once past the mystical front, this secret WeHo venue is bright and convivial, with a laid-back, carefree atmosphere. "We want to create a joyful and memorable experience that you want to replicate," Steven Weisburd, co-owner of Midnight Hospitality Group, LLC (which owns Employees Only LA) told West Hollywood. "The experience is very inclusive, with everyone being welcomed." Though this might not be the scene for cocktail pundits, Employees Only also harbors another private, reservations-only bar — Henry's Room — that features New Orleans-inspired cocktails. True connoisseurs might find themselves inexplicably drawn to this speakeasy within a speakeasy.

8. Lilly Rose

Located in the basement of the Wayfarer Hotel in the heart of Downtown, this venue functions as a tea parlor by day and transforms into a speakeasy by night. Though it's not exactly difficult to find (simply follow the red lights downstairs), Lilly Rose has a mischievous air to its mise-en-scène, which in all its subterranean splendor vivifies a venture down the rabbit hole with colorful wonderland whimsy. Once guests set foot below, red and blue lighting offsets the opulent chandeliers, casting a dreamy haze over even the darkest corners. The playful atmosphere only heightens with monthly comedy shows, trivia nights, and live music performances.

Equal parts intimate and lively, Lilly Rose and its eclectic decor suggest a relaxed atmosphere, ideal for both cozy chats and dancing the night away. In the spirit of the unconventional, the drinks on the cocktail menu come with pun-tastic names, though the bartenders can work magic to appease any flavor preference. Besides frequenting the bar, Lilly Rose's daytime tea service is equally worth a visit. The High Tea and Highballs served Wednesdays through Sundays comes with spirit-infused teas and wonderland bites (though diners needn't fear facing the same fate as Alice and the "Eat Me" cakes).

9. Blind Barber

Situated in Highland Park in northeastern LA, Blind Barber is hidden behind a fully-functioning front. Both the bar and the eponymous barbershop share the same name, which takes inspiration from Prohibition slang. "Blind Pig" was a common code word for "speakeasy" back in the day, and many establishments under such a title operated through a clever loophole: They charged patrons to view an inane attraction (i.e. a pig) and offered "complimentary" drinks with the price of admission. "Blind Tiger" was another covert term to refer to these covert gin joints.

Blind Barber's tonsorium is a trendy clean-cut space where a shave and a haircut is what gets patrons their "complimentary" drink. But guests can also skip straight to the bar behind a back door, where they'll step straight into the 70s. With midcentury furniture, palm frond wallpaper, and a giant fish tank, the space is uniquely and unapologetically retro. The owners claim to have found design inspiration from the home of infamous Jack Horner in "Boogie Nights," creating an homage to both Hollywood classics and 1970s LA.

To keep an evening at Blind Barber on brand, try the Sweeney Ted cocktail, named for Chef Ted Hirsch who has crafted a selection of gourmet grilled cheeses that pair excellently with the drinks menu. Though the Highland Park location has more distinct interior design, Blind Barber's second LA offshoot in Culver City made the list of LA cocktail bars worth visiting, and offers drinks and coiffures that are equally refined.

10. The Powder Room

A block north of Sunset and with no sign over the door, The Powder Room is a bar hiding in plain sight. But past the oft-drawn shades that make this place easy to miss, there's a futuristic 70s glam interior that's unexpectedly dazzling. "The black marble bar top glitters to resemble Hollywood Boulevard, an ode to where we are at," owner John Arakaki told LA Nightlife. Every aspect of this bar's decor is a tribute to Hollywood glitz, contrasting the black bar with pink accent lighting and a wall of mirrors. Disco is no stranger to the setlist.

This bar's novelty offerings are an array of spiked milkshakes that complement the funky atmosphere. Of these virtuosic drinks, the crème de la crème is The Velvet Goldmine (another nod to classic Hollywood), a $500 confection of liqueurs and ice creams topped with gold flakes and a Swarovski crystal ring. While the shakes are a unique offering at this place, you may opt to forgo them in favor of the cocktails, which are unparalleled in their creativity and as chic as the ambiance. The Venus in Furs has notes of blackberry and peach, and Night Out in Bangkok is spiced with lime and Thai chili honey. The Winchester is a classic here though; made with Buffalo Trace whiskey, Amaro Nonino herbal liqueur, and spiced orange and chocolate bitters, it's one of the owner's favorites. "I know I'm biased," Arakaki told Thirsty Mag, "but The Winchester is the best whiskey cocktail I've ever had."

11. Dirty Laundry

Also a Houston Brothers creation, Dirty Laundry is hidden beneath another speakeasy (No Vacancy). The venue's clandestine rooms are on the premises of an underground bar that was once owned by Rudolph Valentino (the "Latin Lover" of the silver screen) who used the space as his own private speakeasy. Taking inspiration from more 20s slang, the term "dirty laundry" refers to the highly-effective Prohibition method of smuggling alcohol in laundry baskets that Valentino imported through a trapdoor off Hollywood Boulevard.

Completely underground, Dirty Laundry is a labyrinth of speakeasy splendor with a dress-to-impress policy and password required for entry (see the bar's Twitter page for a clue). Once inside, hidden rooms abound, like the dance room in the back where tables are fashioned from old-school laundry bins, and the teensy Valentino Room, an intimate space in honor of the bar's original owner.

Despite the disenchanting name, this bar is a thirst trap in more ways than one, from the trendy clientele to the drinks that allure with flaming spirits and avant-garde ingredients. The bartenders encourage guests to order out of their comfort zones with their innovative mixology — jasmine, cardamom, habanero, and cactus pear are featured in signature cocktails, but it's the Hollywood Park that's a must-try. Bourbon-based, this drink is topped with a Pop Rocks garnish as an exciting twist for the tastebuds.

12. Lost Property

In the heart of Tinseltown — between Sunset Boulevard and the Pantages Theatre — Lost Property is sophisticated in that old Hollywood way, offering high-class drinks with a laid-back feel. Though not hard to find (it's located in the event space adjacent to 33 Taps) the atmosphere within feels like a well-kept secret. Whiskey is the emphasis on imbibition here, reflected in the crystal whiskey decanter light fixtures and the 50 hand-selected international varieties available to order that represent the best from every corner of the world. But branching out from whiskey in speaking with Time Out, co-owner Rhino Williams voiced that at Lost Property — or anywhere, really — there's always time for a good daiquiri, which he calls a DTO ("Daiquiri Time Out"). For just such times, Lost Property has The Perfect Daiquiri on its cocktail menu.

For those looking to stray from whiskey neat and classic cocktails, this bar offers a "Why Not?" menu, though that's not the only novelty in the joint. True to the name, Lost Property has walls decorated with unclaimed property, which is free for the taking, though many guests choose to leave an item of their own in return. The bar has also turned this claiming system into a way to entice more visitors — guests can "order" absent friends a drink and pick them out a second-hand treasure (which gets a lost and found tag)that friends can then come in to claim by presenting a ticket.

13. The Edison

Serving drinks from the sub-basement of the historic Higgins Building in downtown Los Angeles, The Edison resides on the site of LA's first power plant. Taking inspiration from the formerly operational setting, a visit to this speakeasy is a steampunk-themed fever dream with a turn of the century industrial chic aesthetic — brass bars, velvet curtains, and some of the original mechanical artifacts that once kept the power plant running.

Beyond its nondescript alley entrance, this vast underground venue is more a theme park than a mere bar, with a series of lounges off the main Industrial Cathedral, and numerous spots for live music. The Generator Lounge in particular harkens back to this basement's original purpose, and the spectrum of nightly entertainment is vast — from DJs to aerialist performances.

With numerous accolades,from Zagat's "Best Decor" to the "World's Top 20 Bars" of Condé Nast, The Edison might be a well-known secret, and where the real melds with the surreal, it may be more of an experience than a place. Accordingly, patrons are required to dress with style, making this a prime opportunity to come decked out in flapper finery. The menu serves food in addition to alcohol, and the spirit du moment is, of course, absinthe, that mystical drink that was banned in the U.S. well before Prohibition took effect.

14. Der Rathskeller

Pasadena, a few miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, is home to numerous noteworthy speakeasies of its own, though Der Rathskeller may be the most memorable. In a space that once functioned as the jail for the former Pasadena Town Hall, there might be more than mere alcohol spirits in this basement speakeasy, which resides beneath the German beer hall Der Wolfskopf (also known as "Der Wolf" to locals). The secret bar-beneath-a-bar's name is doubly apropos in an homage to both Bavarian culture and local history. German rathskellers –a brand of Deutsch speakeasy, if you will — were meeting chambers hidden below bars or city halls where committees could gather for secret council meetings over beers.

While anyone can access the upstairs restaurant and beer hall, the only way into Der Wolf's rathskeller is by becoming a regular, or sufficiently charming the bartenders. Besides the incentive of sheer secrecy, Der Rathskeller also serves off-the-menu cocktails and beers.

Referred to colloquially as "The Dungeon" on the bar's site, Der Rathskeller has many wondering if it might be haunted. Performers and employees have seen strange shadows pass across the aging walls, and at least one known death has occurred near the premises. But if the prospect of real ghosts wasn't scary enough, the bar's decor buys into the spooky theme with frightening murals of the morbid and macabre.

15. Lock & Key

Hidden in the heart of Koreatown, Lock & Key is a cocktail den that may require a few attempts to get in. The entrance begins at an unmarked red door off Vermont Avenue (hint: It's adjacent to a to-go window for fried chicken sandwiches). Beyond the door is another room out of Wonderland after a Victorian corridor leads guests to a wall covered in doorknobs and locks. From there, it's only a matter of which one will let you in — though there may be a hostess lurking nearby to help expedite the process. 

Once inside, Lock & Key's decor suggests the timeless and the futuristic all at once, with floor lighting, brass fixtures, and green leather booths. The dress code is "upscale casual," and the atmosphere is more laid back on weeknights. During the weekend the space attracts a younger crowd and club scene with a lineup of DJs and live music. 

The cocktails themselves are works of art, making innovative use of unusual flavors like beets, rosemary, and serrano. But the international street food-inspired bites here are equally worth sampling, available via Stall 239 next door. For a succulent taste of local flavor, the Lollipop Chicken Wings, seasoned with a Sichuan sauce, are an ode to Koreatown itself. Dessert is even more innovative than the next-level mixology — try the Decadent Deep-Fried PB&J on house brioche topped with crème anglaise and powdered sugar.