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Intersections: 'Speakeasy' offers a glimpse into the past

This is the second in a two-part series.

November 14, 2013|By Liana Aghajanian

Deep down below a bustling street in Glendale, there exists a cellar beyond the wildest dreams of any oenophiliac, or for those of you not versed in Greek root words, lover of wine.

Part I: Booze goes underground in Glendale

Calling it a storage facility is doing it a disservice and, frankly, insulting. Its utterly charming, dark and cold quarters are where a select group of Angelenos store the finest of wines, escaping their busy lives up above, retreating underground and transporting themselves to a long-forgotten era with just a knock on a wooden door.

This is not the 1920s or '40s, but it very well might be. And technically, this is not a speakeasy, but it very well might be, too. In fact, it probably once was.

The rows of lockers in this chilly cellar perfumed with the intoxicating essence of oak sit on top of original wooden floors of what used to be the dining room and ballroom of Glendale's premiere hotel, where the beds were soft and the opportunity to make a killing in the hospitality industry was ripe.

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This subterranean space with concrete walls and potential passageways has more enigmatic and peculiar tales to tell, however. It is rumored to have been a favorite watering hole of Clark Gable and the like, who might have frequented it during those Prohibition years any liquor lover would like to forget.

For over 25 years, it has functioned as a modern speakeasy honoring its historic roots and oozing with so much character, it has developed a fiercely loyal customer base who come from all over L.A. to store their collections there.

They belong to a subculture of intoxicating proportions, one that demands a certain kind of person, a person who delights at the thought of storing his or her stash in what looks like Ernst Hemingway's secret hideaway. And in keeping with tradition, it shall remain a secret, at least in this column anyway.

David Gibbs, a musician, came to Glendale's speakeasy in desperation after realizing his valuable wine collection might begin cooking during one of L.A.'s super-hot summers. Within an hour of discovering the place, he went home, packed his goods in two old suitcases and made his way underground.

I need this place, he thought. It's such a nice quiet break from L.A — and it's just so cool. Sometimes, Gibbs likes to drive from Sherman Oaks, where he lives, to Glendale just to look at his collection stored in what he says is a neat environment, with so much historical draw.

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