Photos: Rhythm Room Brings Old-School Speakeasy Charm To Downtown

The basement of the Hayward Hotel (at the corner of Spring and 6th streets in downtown Los Angeles) had sat dormant and untouched for over 40 years before the team behind the newly opened Rhythm Room took over the space in 2015. Old photos from the 1920s and '30s show a lively speakeasy with the same name (The Rhythm Room LA), but the history becomes hazy in the decades after that.

"This was covered in red disco tiles," Vincent Vongkavivathanakul, co-owner of the bar, told LAist as he points to wreathed moulding over the entrance stairway. "So, we think it might have been a disco bar into the '70s? But we removed the tiles and found this beautiful moulding underneath. It's the original."

Vongkavivathanakul excitedly points out the original marble stairway ("look at the rounded edges, that's from at least 100 years of wear"), the original checkered floors ("that's why we put the checkered pattern into the tables"), and even the original marble-tiled floor by the stage ("see that black line? It demarcated the dance area.")

"The original [motto] for the Rhythm Room [the prohibition-era one] was 'Just For Fun'," Vongkavivathanakul continues. And he and his two co-partners spent two-and-a-half years building out the bar in an effort to honor what they call "active life venues."

"We want people to interact, not necessarily drink," Cindy La, co-owner of the bar told LAist. "We're having an espresso machine coming in soon, and we want to have live music everyday...We want to create a culture where people can read a book, talk, play games."

The games and layout of the Rhythm Room will be familiar to anyone who has been to the Fat Cat in Manhattan's West Village (the tiled Spring Street mural, paying further homage to Manhattan and its subway, was handmade by La). After descending the stairway into the bar area, a sunken space behind the bar opens into an unexpectedly large area filled with billiards tables, ping pong tables, dart boards, a shuffleboard table, a stage, and plenty of tables ready for the chess pieces or board games the Rhythm Room has stocked.

The Rhythm Room is still in its soft open stage, so expect the drinks menu to see a bit of tweaking before the grand opening—"we're hoping for early July," La says—as well as a bar food menu to be introduced.

"We're modeling our food menu after The Meatball Shop in New York," Vongkavivathanakul says. "We want meatballs to be the main protein we build around, but we're also thinking of hot dogs honoring the various areas of L.A. (like a Ktown dog, and an Alvarado Street dog), as well as maybe some mac 'n cheese and chicken paella."

Rhythm Room LA is currently open nightly from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. and is located at 206 West 6th Street in downtown Los Angeles.