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Seattle's best in bars comes to Silver Lake

January 26, 2006|Lina Lecaro | Special to The Times

WITH its preponderance of indie rockers and penchant for boho hobo anti-fashion, Silver Lake has recalled grunge-era Seattle more and more lately. Whether the next Nirvana will emerge from the hills remains to be seen, but now that Seattle's coolest bar has set up shop in the 'hood, the area's struggling musicians have a saucy new space to get inspired.

The Mexicali emporium known as the Cha Cha Lounge has a long-standing rep as Seattle's rocking-est bar, an over-the-top, red-lighted oasis in which members of Modest Mouse and the Murder City Devils have poured drinks and nearly every other rocker in the Northwest goes to guzzle them. Owners Jeff Ofelt, Wade Weigel (of the Rudy's Barbershop chain, also from Seattle) and Kevin Willis, had sought an L.A. location for years. Le Bar, a Latin drag queen hangout across Glendale Boulevard from the venerable Red Lion, proved to be the perfect place for their new casa of kitsch.

A life-size painting of Willie Nelson greets patrons near the bar, where, under a thatch hut roof, the bartenders (yes, most are in bands; the Melvins' Dale Crover even minds the libations on Sundays) pour your poison and pick the tunes. Many prefer to spin LPs on the turntable, which sits on the counter.

Open just a little more than a month, the lounge's signature low but busy lighting and Tijuana-meets-tiki decor also has an undeniably arty aesthetic, thanks to Willis, a painter and video producer, and his friends. Amid the sombreros and streamers hang silk-screened mirror art, photo murals and tabletops emblazoned with portraits of the cross-dressers who used to perform there.

"We wanted it to feel like being in a friend's basement," says Willis, who lived behind the original Cha Cha before moving to L.A. to run this one.

At happy hour on a recent weeknight, a dozen or so slacker types sip beer (Coronas in cans and Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap) and shoot the breeze about music and movies. Later, a pack of black-haired denizens tie up bikes outside (a popular mode of transportation for regulars) before sauntering in. It'll be crowded by 11 p.m.

The following Friday night, it's so packed that a line forms outside. Most seem determined to wait it out; others hop across the street to the Red Lion, the charming German pub that's obviously enjoying a synergistic relationship with its new neighbor.

For now, Cha Cha still has the luster that a new bar enjoys. Who knows, maybe this stretch of Glendale Boulevard will become a bonafide barhopping hub. If the success of Seattle's Cha Cha, which helped make the Capitol Hill area buzz when it opened eight years ago, is any example, the fiesta here is just getting started.


Cha Cha Lounge

Where: 2375 Glendale Blvd., L.A.

When: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Price: No cover. Draft beer $2.50, bottled beer $3 to $4, well drinks $4 to $6, cocktails $6 to $7.

Info: (323) 660-7595

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