Downtown LA's Most Accessible Bars For Disabled People

James Lilly hangs out with Alejandro Albor in Moocher's Bar in Nenana, Alaska after day one of the Sadler's Ultra Challenge, a 267-mile wheelchair race from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska on July 17, 2005. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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It's the weekend. All you want to do is grab a drink and kick it with some friends. For most people, that's easy. Walk into a bar, sit on a stool, order a Jack and Coke. For disabled people, the experience can be much more difficult — although it shouldn't be.

The Americans with Disability Act, passed in 1990, requires buildings, both new and old, to be modified so disabled people who use mobility aids such as wheelchairs, canes,and scooters can freely enter. It also says venues can't turn away people for being disabled. Since the ADA became law, venues have had to build ramps, lower tables for wheelchair users, install grab bars in bathrooms and make sure their doors are light enough to be opened without assistance. I is not just about getting in. It's about how easy it is to enjoy yourself once you're there. Being able to easily access every part of a venue, that's the gold standard. But the reality can be starkly different.

Bars love to claim they're accessible when they aren't. Sometimes they pretend they haven't heard of the ADA. Sometimes they say, "We never thought a disabled people would come here." Some bars only have stairs to enter. If you do get inside, you'll probably need to use the bathroom at some point and often you won't find any stalls large enough for a wheelchair. The list of barriers goes on.

Now, the good news.

If you're disabled or want to go out with friends who are, there are bars in Los Angeles where you can party. These venues aren't 100% accessible to 100% of patrons but all of them has made an effort to accommodate people with diverse accessibility needs.

These bars are in downtown L.A. so street parking is going to be a challenge at every venue. If you're not driving or catching a ride from a friend, Lyft Assist provides an accessible and safe option for getting there and back.

La Cita bar in downtown L.A. (Alyssa Lavine Photography/via Facebook)

La Cita
Whether you want to grab a quick drink or dance through the night, La Cita has you covered. For parking, you'll have to snag a spot on the street (good luck) or pay to park in one of the private lots down the block. The bar's front entrance has a ramp. Once inside, an open space on the left leads to the dance floor. The passage leading to the bar area wide enough for a wheelchair to roll through. After that, La Cita is all flat surfaces, making it easy to drink and dance no matter your mobility aid. The back hall, which leads to the restroom and patio, is also wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and the bathroom has an accessible stall. Unfortunately, La Cita's back patio is hard to access. It requires you to go down four steps. If you're in a wheelchair, you'll either have transfer out of your chair and scoot down or leave the bar and re-enter through the back door. Fortunately, only certain events happen on the patio. Most events, like Latin bass night Sucia Bonita, take place indoors.
336 S. Hill St., downtown L.A. 203-687-711, www.lacitabar.com

The Down & Out bar in downtown L.A. (via Facebook)

Down & Out Bar
If day-drinking and watching sporting events is your jam, this is your bar. Down & Out has an entry ramp and the entire place is on one floor. A few booths in the back have a step but there are plenty of tables. The bathrooms, located in the back on the left side of the venue, are accessible. There's even a bouncer who stands between the men's and women's bathrooms to make sure no one barges into a room they don't belong in. Bouncers also walk around the floor and they're happy to help you navigate the venue. That's especially useful when the bar is packed, as it often is on weekends. The staff and bouncers work together to make space so you can order at the bar or help find you a table or chair. You're also in a great spot in the heart of DTLA if you want to head to a club and continue the party.
501 S. Spring St., downtown L.A. 213-221-7595, www.downandoutbar.com.

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The Little Easy Bar
This New Orleans-themed bar offers whiskey, rum, cocktails and Cajun food with a side of Southern comfort. You'll need to get over a little bump in the entryway but you won't have to deal with stairs. Sit in the narrow front bar (it's wide enough for a wheelchair to get through) or head to the larger back bar, which has many low tables and an accessible single bathroom stall with grab bars, a lowered paper towel dispenser and a lightweight door. The Little Easy is a great spot for drinks and food. Their staff is ready to find you a lowered table and quick to take your order so you don't need to approach the bar, if you don't want to.
216 W. 5th St., downtown L.A. 213-628-3113, littleeasybar.com.

Pattern Bar
Located in L.A.'s Fashion District, Pattern Bar works equally well for a Saturday night dance party or a Sunday morning brunch. The venue has a small entry ramp that leads to a large, dimly lit room bathed in purple and blue light. The open space allows everyone to dance and enjoy whatever tunes (usually EDM) the DJ is spinning. The counter, in the back of the bar, is slightly lowered, making it easier for bartenders to spot patrons in wheelchairs. Two single-stall bathrooms, one for men and one for women, are in the back and they're large enough to accommodate mobility aids such as wheelchairs, canes, crutches and small scooters. A few tables and booths require you to scale a step but there are also stools, which are great if you use a cane but not great if you're transferring out of a wheelchair. A lot across the street has accessible parking.
100 W. 9th St., downtown L.A. 213-627-7774, www.patternbar.com.

Wendell
It's not every hole-in-the-wall that comes with great accessibility features. You enter faux dive bar Wendell via the ramp to find a cozy space that's still large enough for wheelchairs. The bar counter is at the usual height but toward the back, it has a lowered section that's perfect for wheelchair users. Stools and lowered tables are attached to the walls, making it easy for a person to roll up and enjoy a drink in the downstairs area. The 2nd-floor has additional seating — if you can make it up a flight of stairs. The bathrooms, located on the first floor in the back are accessible single stalls with lowered sinks and paper towel dispensers. Wendell is small and usually quiet so it's a great spot to bond with friends over intimate conversations.
656 S. Main St., downtown L.A.; 213-622-7200, www.wendellbardtla.com.


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