DJ Becka Diamond plays tunes for visitors at The Lash in downtown Los Angeles (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)
Sandwiched between Los Angeles and Main streets off a tiny road called Winston, the new downtown L.A. club the Lash may be situated off an alley, but from there any sense of place starts feeling a little fuzzy.
A glowing door in a wall painted with diagonal black-and-white strips leads to a small set of steps that take you to the club's main bar. Inside, walls made of smashed white subway tiles, modern modular furniture, off-kilter mirrors and bleacher seating create an oddly cold but inviting minimalist space.
Through another door and down an oblong hallway with an arched ceiling, you emerge in the Lash's party room. This room is all black, with unfinished concrete benches, chrome fixtures, broken mirrors and veined ebony marble. There is an artistic play on a disco ball in the lofted ceiling — its jagged frame is made from chromed steel and it's stuffed with silver Mylar survival blankets. It rotates above the scene with bleak cynicism.
"This is our version of razzle-dazzle camouflage," says designer and creative director Erik Hart of Atelier Projects, who is giving a tour alongside the club's founder, Ross O'Carroll. "When you're in here we really want you to go on a journey and submit to it. It could be anywhere."
Inside the Lash you can imagine yourself in Berlin or Rotterdam or Bilbao, but not so much in L.A. That is, until you look at the crowd. On a recent Friday night it teemed with a hodgepodge of the young, hip and notable — or sometimes simply noticeable. John Famiglietti, of the cutting-edge L.A. punk-electronica band Health, could be seen tapping his feet to the DJ'ed beat alongside a swath of young artists and designers. Old-school trench coats — à la Inspector Gadget — were prevalent, as were beanies, suspenders, leather, micro-mini dresses, asymmetrical haircuts and e-cigarettes.
In many ways the Lash is a hybrid of a bar and a nightclub, with the front room serving the former purpose and the back room the latter. And although it doesn't look it, O'Carroll and Hart say that they were inspired by the public houses and inns of Ireland. O'Carroll was born in Cork and his family owned a number of popular pubs on the Irish coast. There is a tap at the bar designated solely for Murphy's Irish Stout.
"The name 'The Lash' comes from a Pogues song, and a Winston Churchill quote," says O' Carroll, who once played in a band with Hart and has worked in the L.A. bar scene for years. "It's also slang for getting wasted."
At the Lash you can go on the lash (within reason, mind you), but not on mixology cocktails. Here you'll find a very basic list of booze: bourbon, whiskey, Scotch, tequila, gin and rum are the stars and a list of six no-frills cocktails are on hand including a Dark and Stormy and, fittingly for such a conceptual space, a drink called "Untitled," made with tequila, Kahlua and sweetened espresso.
"We wanted to do something different from the vest and bow tie mixology thing," says O'Carroll. "Something not so fussy."
Plenty of mixology drinks can be had downtown, and the Lash makes a nice spot to go to after a few of those. It's a place to lose yourself in and end the night. And each visit promises to be a bit different. O'Carroll and Hart plan to host a variety of programming, including open music sessions, art gatherings and fashion shows.
"We have so many friends from the art, fashion and design worlds," says Hart, who has traveled the world extensively as a designer. "And these people will help curate concepts going forward."
In a downtown landscape that is increasingly buzzing with night life and activity, the Lash is a welcome addition. It bridges the gap between the underground warehouse art parties of the 1980s and '90s and the sleek premeditation of the current bar and club scene. The space feels at once raw and handmade, but shiny and brand new. It also doesn't hew to the strict musical standards of many clubs. The soundtrack that thumps through the Lash swings wildly from synth to post-punk to rock to soul and back again.
"Right above the bar it says, 'Wish you were here,'" says Hart pointing to a neon sign written in Russian. "Maybe somebody is sitting at the bar thinking of a distant friend, and the space helps enhance and soothe that sense of longing — of wanting to share the experience with someone else."
Where: 117 Winston St., L.A.
When: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., daily
Price: Beer, wine and cocktails, $6 to $12