Beatnik History Honored at Venice West Cafe

Venice was once the fulcrum of L.A.'s Beat scene, imagine that
Venice was once the fulcrum of L.A.’s Beat scene, imagine that Photo: Audrey AK via Flickr

You know that sketchy bar on Venice Beach where The Doors’ tribute band plays for a rogue’s gallery of sun-fried drunks and hoodied tough guys? It might be made the city’s next historical landmark, The L.A. Times explains. Venice West Café is apparently one of the closest things we’ve got to New York’s Café Wha? or San Fran’s City Lights, designated as an influential support beam for L.A.’s Beat movement.

The cafe was opened in 1958 by poet Stuart Perkoff who ran it as a rallying point for intellectuals, activists, and artists, continuing with its purchase by the eventual founder of The Peace and Freedom party. The real actual Doors used to hang out here too, according to keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who recounts conversing with a Lysergically-enhanced Jim Morrison over coffee.

Today, the city’s Cultural Heritage Committee will consider recommending Venice West as a historical landmark, with its chairman hoping to revamp the café to its original look and redesign adjacent Dudley as a ped-friendly attraction with vintage lampposts and fixtures. Naturally in development-ravenous Venice, this has created discomfort with the buildings’ owners. Considering the neighborhood’s rapid gentrification, ongoing persecution of street artists, and the loss of avant-guru Mark Sponto, the historical classification could be a score for Venice’s inspired underdogs for a rare change.

Seeking Establishment recognition of Beat hangout’s importance [L.A. Times]

Beatnik History Honored at Venice West Cafe