While the rest of the country was forced to go dry, underneath Downtown Los Angeles the party never stopped.
Despite prohibition laws, 11 miles of service tunnels became passageways to basement speakeasies with innocuous fronts above ground. Patrons were able to move about under the city, boozing it up without a care in the world, while the Mayor’s office ran the supply of hootch.
King Eddy Saloon, an establishment that has been alive and kicking on 5th and Main since the 1900s, hid in plain sight fronting as a piano store. Luckily, local officials took no issue with King Eddy’s sudden interest in music, and the business not only survived, but prospered. Now an official saloon once more, its basement still remains part of the tunnel system, littered with crumbling brick lines and graffiti murals.
Aside from the service tunnels, there are also abandoned subway and equestrian tunnels from the days before personal vehicles began clogging up LA’s city streets. There are stories of these tunnels being used by police to transport prisoners, bank security to move large sums of cash safely, and both coroners and mobsters to store bodies. Now they are mostly closed off, but some are still accessible and are used as film locations, easy shortcuts by city employees between buildings, and a place for runners to train on the rare occasion of bad weather.
To explore the former highway of the LA underground, you must slip behind the Hall of Records on Temple Street and locate an easy-to-miss elevator. You’ll be transported down into a subterranean passage filled with mysterious street art, rusted machinery, and iron gates that limit your exploration to areas deemed earthquake safe. Officially, the tunnels are closed to the public.