The Del Monte Speakeasy
The Del Monte Speakeasy sits in the basement of the Townhouse restaurant and was an actual speakeasy from 1920 to 1933. Established in 1915 by Italian immigrant Cesar Menotti, Townhouse is the oldest bar in Venice and one of the oldest bars in the Los Angeles area.
Speakeasies, which were illicit establishments that sold alcohol during the Prohibition era, were often masked by deceptive store fronts with passwords required to gain entry. Menotti’s speakeasy was concealed by a grocery store front, and was a central part of Venice’s nightlife. The roaring twenties saw a social, political, and cultural dynamism that was unprecedented.
Today, the bar acts as a perfect time capsule for the era, bartender Max Martinez tells, “We’ve kept the place the way it’s been. Very old-school, with almost no restoration whatsoever.” The retro ambiance only adds to the tavern’s reputation as one of the most haunted bars in the United States. Rumor has it that the now deceased former owner is often seen sitting downstairs, keeping watch over his beloved bar.
When asked whether or not he’s ever had an encounter with the supernatural, Martinez pauses his duties as a mixologist and says, “I’ve worked here for 10 years. I think everyone who has worked here has had some sort of an experience like that.”
Martinez elaborates: “Once, a few years back, I had just opened the bar, there was no one else in the place besides me and one gentlemen who was sitting at the bar. We were chatting, and he got up to use the bathroom, he came back and said, ‘Who the fuck is that guy in the bathroom?’ He described the guy as being huge and wearing a black hat with a suit and tie. So I went to the bathroom and no one was in there.” Stories like this have attracted the supernaturally-curious to the establishment from all corners of the world. “We have people coming from all over the world who have heard of this bar and made it a point to come here while they’re in LA," Martinez boasts.
Today, the bar is divided by two floors, the downstairs being the original space of the speakeasy, which hosts live entertainment including live music, DJs, comedy and burlesque as often as seven nights per week. “We have a huge event on Halloween this year. Costumes, live music, speciality drinks,” Martinez reveals. A visit to the Del Monte Speakeasy means sipping a handcrafted cocktail in a fashionably dated environment that somehow manages to be welcoming and wonderfully creepy, all at the same time.