Los Angeles Nightlife Offers The Best And The Unexpected

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a New York transplant: never count Los Angeles out for a night you won’t forget.

If you’re looking to grab a cocktail in Los Angeles atop the city at a trendy rooftop lounge or one of its famous modern speakeasies, buckle up—the larger-than-life mentality of L.A. nightlife can be both a whirlwind and a wonderland for an outsider.

It was going to take a lot to convince me that the City of Angels was where I was meant to waste my youth on booze I couldn’t afford

Moving from New York, I was ready to be underwhelmed by the scene on the West Coast. New York, the city that housed the golden age of clubbing had a lot to brag about, while Los Angeles seemed clouded in labels, faux velvet-rope entries, and B-list celebrity sightings. Plus, I wasn’t sure I was ready to trade my beloved 24-7 Bodega for unidentifiable street meat. It was going to take a lot to convince me that the City of Angels was where I was meant to waste my youth on booze I couldn’t afford.

William Galindo (Flickr Creative Commons)

© William Galindo/ Flickr Creative Commons

The intrigue of this city reveals itself quickly. Between the hours of 11 pm and 3 am actors, artists, lawyers, investors, and personal assistants surface to take up residence outside whatever club or bar is deemed the most Instagram-worthy that weekend. The early closing times were a big indication that I wasn’t in the subway-ticket-lined streets of New York anymore. Didn’t they know they would have to go home soon? This small-town mentality had already dropped L.A. a few points in my 22-year-old book, but my pompous attitude didn’t last long.

I was new here and it showed.

My first nights amongst the chaos chewed me up and spit me out despite my fearlessness and judgment of the 2am curfew. The lines to gain entry felt longer, the people fancier, and the perfect time to arrive more of a science than a number on the clock. I was new here and it showed.

William Galindo (Flickr Creative Commons)

© William Galindo/ Flickr Creative Commons

It’s impossible not to learn quickly, though. Picking up on cues from the bouncers, watching who gets pulled out of line and taking a quick note of what they’re wearing. Even for a rooftop bar you better believe its almost never jeans. Much like New York, the bouncers and keepers of the waitlist hold ultimate power over the land of going out—and the success of your night.

Unlike the relied-upon bar scene of New York, Los Angeles offers a unique conglomerate of places to drink

Besides the culture shock of navigating through the streets as a novice, the actual landscape of L.A. nightlife won’t feel familiar for an outsider either. Unlike the relied-upon bar scene of New York, Los Angeles offers a unique conglomerate of places to drink. Much like the city’s culture, it flaunts an unorganized mixture of extremes from the raunchy destinations on the WeHo strip to lavish nightclubs that offer bottle service only and observe a strict girl-to-guy ratio upon entry. You’ll find a dive bar or two, but it’s likely you’ll be too distracted by lines for places like The Abbey and rooftop sensation E.P. & L.P. to ever reach the front door.

William Galindo (Flickr Creative Commons)

© William Galindo/ Flickr Creative Commons

L.A.’s ranking amongst the big dogs of party-culture isn’t just supported by its people. The accessibility to more bars and a working public transit system might give off the idea that New Yorkers spend more overall on alcohol; however, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York City households have an average annual expenditure of $460 on alcohol compared to L.A.’s $512—proving that the scene in Los Angeles is not for the faint of heart or the faint of wallet.

I learned that if I was going to feel like a key player, a curling wand and some fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence would be in my best interest

While throwing down another credit card, it’s easy to feel a ruthless desire for attention and a tiredness bubbling under the surface of the pool deck at Skybar on Friday nights. Girls grab their Gucci cross-bodies and adjust their bottle blonde hair before delicately throwing their hands up in the air to the latest Post Malone Remix. Here it appears everything is calculated—even the fun.

William Galindo (Flickr Creative Commons)

© William Galindo/ Flickr Creative Commons

Assessing the crowds outside of Beauty & Essex or the reality TV classic, Les Deux, you’ll see a range of designer bags and red-bottomed Louboutins, but besides an outlier who took a wrong turn on their way back to Silver Lake, you won’t find many sporting a messy bun or a tousled grunge look. After one night of relying too heavily on a messy ponytail, I learned that if I was going to feel like a key player, a curling wand and some fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence would be in my best interest.

There’s a locality to New York that just isn’t found in the club line-up of an L.A. Saturday night

While seemingly superficial, there’s something exciting and almost addictive about the need to bring your A-game, even for just one drink. After a long week at work, people anxiously shed their SoCal casual dress code in favor of luxe outfits that are sure to drum up some whispers if they’re shocking enough.

William Galindo (Flickr Creative Commons)

© William Galindo/ Flickr Creative Commons

The shock value in New York comes more from how many mutual friends you share with half the bar instead of who wore lingerie better as an actual outfit. There’s a locality to New York that just isn’t found in the club line-up of an L.A. Saturday night. But it’s possible this somehow makes the N.Y. bubble less exciting.

There’s an authenticity and rawness in Los Angeles that can only be seen wedged up between complete strangers on a sweaty dance floor

Beneath the layers of wealth and perfectly manicured nails, there’s an authenticity and rawness in Los Angeles that can only be seen wedged up between complete strangers on a sweaty dance floor. People may be flashy, but they’re also totally shameless.

William Galindo (Flickr Creative Commons)

© William Galindo/ Flickr Creative Commons

No one here is afraid to name drop. They like Top 40 songs and the perfect photo moment. They’re suckers for status and they aren’t afraid to let you know that, yes, their dad does work for Universal Pictures. And that’s where the heart of this city comes alive, amongst the people who care too much and subsequently not at all.

It’s both a dare and a gift to place yourself with those who have come to Harlowe Bar on Santa Monica to dance their asses off to remixes of Destiny’s Child, pay too much for a drink, and float back home to the month-to-month apartment they share with 6 other guys who all vaguely know someone in Blink 182. You feel like they’re about to make it big and maybe so are you.

Cover Picture Courtesy of William Galindo (Flickr Creative Commons)

Britni Birt is an LA-based writer known for brunching, people watching, arguing politics, or doing all 3 simultaneously with iced coffee in hand.
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