Craby Joe’s Set to Close on Xmas Eve

Another downtown landmark goes the way of the gentrification Dodo tomorrow: Craby Joe’s, that diveyest of dives, the holiest of holes-in-the-wall, closes its doors for the last time on Christmas Eve. I always felt that a marker of a good bar was (a) it was named after its original owner or (b) it was named after an unpleasant animal. Quite possibly covering both (a) and (b) in one fell swoop (although I don’t know the original proprietor’s name, alas), Craby Joes was a bastion of crustiness in a rapidly sterilizing downtown.
The historians & cultural/literary archivists behind will be lifting their final pints at Craby Joes in a celebratory wake tomorrow. I suggest y’all swing by on your way to or from your respective holiday celebrations, or, should you lack one, let this be your wassailing headquarters for the night.

Click through for the full invite from

I wonder what will come to replace Craby Joes…let’s see, maybe another Katsuya? Pinkberry? Golden Gopher 2? Upscale dog-clothing boutique? Le sigh. Kim Cooper says “Craby Joe’s has served as a watering hole to John Fante, Charles Bukowski, and many other great souls who drew from this well of characters and atmosphere from the wrong side of the tracks…This fragile coral reef of artists, galleries (the hub of Art Walk is two blocks away at 5th and Main at Bert Green’s), SRO hotels and their long time residents will suffer a severe blow with the close of Craby Joe’s…” Photo from the venerable

I don’t mind downtown’s gentrification as much as, say, one of the artists who lived in the Tomahawk building or the “Dancing Girls” building across the street from it–just some of the folks who lost their homes to the “artist’s lofts no artist could ever afford” wave. I like being able to walk around downtown feeling safe[r]. I just wish we didn’t pave over our history quite as much.

WHAT: A wake for Skid Row’s last bar, Craby Joe’s
WHERE: Craby Joe’s, 656 South Main Street, Los Angeles
WHEN: December 24, 10pm till last call

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“As Musso & Frank is a living testament to Hollywood’s golden age, so Craby Joe’s is to downtown Los Angeles’ Main Street tenderloin. Both are family-owned, and both have contributed greatly to the social culture of their neighborhoods. At the corner of 7th and Main since 1933, Craby Joe’s will close it doors for good on Christmas Eve, 2007. A group of local historians and preservationists, including representatives from Esotouric and 1947project, will gather at 10pm on December 24 to share what Hemingway wrote of the custom in his beloved Spain, “La Penultima–the next to last drink,” for the last one is too bitter a thought.

Craby Joe’s has served as a watering hole to John Fante, Charles Bukowski, and many other great souls who drew from this well of characters and atmosphere from the wrong side of the tracks. Its now-dead neon sign blinked gaily in the opening credits for “Barfly,” and its pickled eggs were the day’s only protein for too many.

Gentrification has come to Skid Row, and now Craby Joe’s, the final holdout among the dozens of bars that once lined Main Street, is being shoved into history’s dustbin. Its neighbor the Cecil Hotel, already on the skids when Raymond Chandler described it in early short stories, is now a self-described boutique hotel, a destination for the discerning European traveler. This fragile coral reef of artists, galleries (the hub of Art Walk is two blocks away at 5th and Main at Bert Green’s), SRO hotels and their long time residents will suffer a severe blow with the close of Craby Joe’s, and its fans and friends will miss the unpretentious neighborhood bar and its gruff-but-lovable co-owner Jenny.”

9 thoughts on “Craby Joe’s Set to Close on Xmas Eve”

  1. Nice story, but there is a good reason why the bar is closing. It was the target of an injunction by the City Attorney’s office for being peripherally involved in the local drug trade, by harboring felons.

    I am not sure it’s correct to compare it to Musso & Frank’s, which has steadily and consistently served a loyal clientele for years. Craby Joe’s is a good old dive bar, that’s true, but if its passing is mourned by people who rarely, if ever, patronized the place, it seems fitting.

  2. [Note: Comments containing the word “drug” get moderated as possible spam, so if your comment doesn’t appear asap it’s because I haven’t been able to go in and unlock it yet.]

    The points you guys make are very true. I wish we could identify these places and work on saving them–with all that entails, from reducing crime and drugs to restoration and retrofitting–BEFORE they were facing closure. If we care so much about the history & culture in these places, why aren’t we working harder to clean them up & preserve them before the wrecking ball or the plywood comes into the picture? Maybe because it’s just hard to get folks riled up unless there’s some imminent threat.

    And I’ll be the first to admit that the very things I find charming and colorful–in most part, because I don’t have to deal with them daily (like, say, a scuzzy bar with shady characters)–would rapidly lose some of their allure were I to, say, live upstairs or something, and constantly have to dodge crack deals when I got home at night.

    Finding dangerous places & people invigorating and intriguing is probably one of my character defects, and also comes from the luxury of being able to get in my car and leave. Mea culpa.

    It’s something artists have always done, to an extent: gravitating to those risky and dangerous places because it stokes the fires of creativity, because it’s usually cheap, and maybe because you see something of yourself in the place. But there is a tourist attitude to the artist’s search for “edgy”…don’t get me started…

  3. A local guy just got convicted on 3 counts of attempted murder on Skid Row–and he’d had gotten drunk at Craby’s before knifing three people. I wonder how many people lamenting the closure have actually spent any time in the place?

    And as for artists gravitating to risky places—what a load of baloney. Which artists? Schnabel? Calder? Moore? Adrienne Rich?

    And the people that own Craby’s have known about the deals for years. If they’d wanted to clean the place up, they would have done it long ago.

  4. Rachel, would it be better if he just got wasted in an alley nearby before he knifed people?

    I’ve been in there, and my East LA ass liked the dirtiness too. But I don’t lament the bad aspects of ghettoeness, and any need to keep them going. The few times I went in there I thought “why the freak am I in here, I dont want any heroin?” , and then left to the comfort of mexican paisano bars across the river.

    Which brings me to point out that if any artists want kitschyness there are tons of dirty ass mexican bars in the nearby barrios, and you don’t need to habla espanol. East LA and Boyle Hts could use an infusion of whiteness, money, and artsy folks, it’s a shame that only the Latino weirdos check them out, it is a joy for all to behold. But they do need to have a few dive bars in skid row, otherwise everyone would be drinking in the street. The problem wasnt craby joe’s, it was the community it is placed in the and the clientele they cater to. If Royal claytons or the golden gopher didnt stop real (dirty) LA ubanites from entering, and charged a lot less for their drinks, the same problems would arise. The one plus I’ve noticed in the past half decade is the loss of cholos/gang members in most bars everywhere (they are a serious burn) which is a great.

  5. Schnabel….hahahaha

    Keep on keepin’ on, Rachel.

    I’m sorry, I forgot–no REAL artist would ever be caught dead in a downtown cheap-ass low-class shithole, right? We should all strive to emulate the unimpeachable Mssrs. Gates & Schnabel.

    As for the owners’ shirked responsibility to clean the place up, I agree with you on that, and it’s really too bad they never did. I am guessing they found it too overwhelming a problem and lacked support from local law enforcement, who are pretty overwhelmed as it is down there.

  6. A man kills 32 students and professors at a college…do we close the college! hmmm…rachel?

    Not to say people who aren’t from LA raise their glasses to the Gentrifying flag wrapped in an injunction, but keep in mind LA and landmarks have a strange way morphing through law.

    Most people who don’t understand the issue or are just blatantly ignorant of the how LA politics work. There are more drugs in the so called artist “if you lived here you’d be HIGH by now” lofts. But no action is taken, which brings this all back around to the dynamics of social economics. Lets all pretend Ike’s lease renewed every year since ’71 was all of sudden to much for the public conscience to bear. And the owner of said property wasn’t quietly nudged in the proper direction.

    …We will now resume regular programming…go back to sleep… ;)

    Thanks for your coverage Lu! Cheers! (clink)
    4th Gen Angeleno say no more!

  7. Craby Joe’s was the last of the real bars of downtown Los Angeles. Now what? I don’t like listening to hipsters so that cuts out about every other bar in the core downtown area. Fuck, the Seven Grand wouldn’t even let me in the door because I had shorts on…

    Craby Joe’s is something that’s not going to be understood by the majority of new downtown residents who just want to see the homeless “problem” go away and just want downtown to turn into another shopping mall with fancy pet stores.

    Drugs? Yeah, taking Craby Joe’s away is going to end drugs in downtown Los Angeles. HAHAHA. Oh, so I guess there’s no drugs at the Golden Gopher or Broadway Bar…right.

    The difference is, Craby Joe’s served a community that wouldn’t even make it past the “door guy” at bar 107. Yeah, they served drug dealers and pimps and hookers. I’ve seen the craziest shit imaginable inside that bar. Insane people. Broken people.

    But they need a drink too…more so then any of us with nothing better to do then to complain about the realities of life.


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