Villains Tavern is Frightfully Fun
BY SCOTT HUVER
ABOVE: Villains Tavern BELOW: Belladonna cocktail
Villains Tavern just may be the ideal lair for partners in crime, a gathering place for the colorfully nefarious where one could easily imagine Lex Luthor, Professor Moriarty and Auric Goldfinger toasting world domination during a respite from skullduggery.
Perched aside the Los Angeles River in the Arts District along Downtown’s eastern boundary, Villains Tavern is the not-so-sinister master plan of interior designer/nightlife impresario Dana Hollister (Cliff’s Edge, Brite Spot). Falling for a building with an eccentric pedigree (a former sandwich and spirits shop on a property owned by the bizarre electronics TV pitchman Crazy Gideon), Hollister converted it into a lavishly baroque yet intimate watering hole for eclectic hipsters plotting their own nightly schemes.
“It’s been like a psychotic craft project,” chuckles Hollister, a self-described “maximalist” who’s loaded the locale with twisted touches reflecting her belief that “bars are like altars, in a perverse way.” There’s the antique centerpiece bar—created in the Bowery in the late 1800s—she discovered in Utah; the looming arches from cathedral eaves converted into the bar’s mirrored backdrop; and the stained-glass effect resulting from lining the large front windows with scores of 19th-century apothecary bottles that subvert sunbeams with multicolored dyed liquids.
A clandestine, cobbled-together craziness permeates: The walls are paneled with a mosaic of nearly 150 vintage doors; a Mediterranean patio is populated with Argentine lawn chairs circa 1890– 1920 and a shiny hand shuffleboard table; and the mishmash of mismatched barware suggests it was swiped from all sorts of saloons. Even a signature cocktail, the Stan Lee, evokes the creator of grand comic-book baddies like Dr. Doom, Green Goblin and Magneto. “We’re on the edge,” says Hollister of her antiheroic haven. “This is where you fall into the river.” Or, perhaps, are pushed. 1356 Palmetto St., LA; villainstavern.com