Cedd Moses' bars get creepy in the name of Halloween
Halloween draws dangerously close, and in its honor nightlife baron Cedd Moses' downtown bars are locked in a gory battle to see which one can create the spookiest atmosphere. Last night I was among a group of judges that toured all eight bars to choose a winner, which will be announced on Halloween. (I don't know which actually won. Moses' nightlife group, 213, has to tally up the scores.)
The rules of the competition were simple: Each venue was given an identical budget; each was supposed to come up with a theme that incorporates zombies; and each had to create a special Halloween punch that will sell for $5 from Friday through Monday.
The winning bar gets to keep a large portion of Saturday night's sales for its employees. And one employee, voted Most Valuable Zombie, or MVZ, will receive a plane ticket to anywhere in the U.S. (One hopes that it's round-trip.)
Cole's came up with a really cool zombie gangster theme, which seemed appropriate given that the bar hosted its fair share of old-school gangsters, including regular Mickey Cohen, in its heyday. The bartenders' makeup was particularly impressive with bullet holes in heads, chests and cheeks rendered with expertise.
Dead rock stars were the order of the day at Broadway Bar, where our bartender was a very dead-looking Jim Morrison. At Casey's, which is subterranean, guests were greeted with a cascade of smoke that wafted out the front door and seeped up the front steps. Las Perlas, of course, went for a Day of the Dead theme and created a tasty passion fruit mezcal cocktail.
Cana Rum Bar had fun with creepy skulls and made a particularly delicious rum-based punch, while Seven Grand played up its Scottish-ness with shirtless Zombie bartenders in kilts. The effect was made creepier by the fact that it was kind of sexy. Or maybe it was just the last bar we judged and I had had too much punch.
The unsexiest thing in the world, though, was at Golden Gopher, which hit on the deeply unsettling theme of zombie Disneyland. Dead Disney characters were everywhere, including one employee who wore a truly gruesome dead Pinocchio costume. It kind of ruined my world, and stole my innocence.
Tony's strayed from zombieland by embracing a very realistic "Dexter" theme. Still, it might have been the most genuinely frightening of the night. Tony's is already located in a relatively desolate part of downtown, so the fact that the staff had covered every square inch of the place in plastic wrap -- just like the TV character Dexter does in his kill rooms -- seemed almost realistic. So much so that I felt that I would be scared to be in the bar alone.
You can get in on all the fun at any of the bars -- and taste the punch -- all weekend long, and, of course, on Monday, which is Halloween proper. And take a cue from your bartenders and dress up yourself. Just watch out for Pinocchio. Seriously.
For locations and phone numbers go to: www.213nightlife.com
Photos: Top, zombie gangsters at Cole's; middle, zombie Jim Morrison at Broadway Bar; bottom, zombie Pinocchio at Golden Gopher. Credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times