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history, as is evident in the booths that hail from Seneca Falls, NY, where women’s suffrage movement began. Salin found them online and, two days later, he and Almeida flew to NY to rescue them from of the café they had been sitting in since the 1920s. They loaded them on a rented truck and proceeded with a buying trip across the country. It was on this excursion that the pair were able to rescue a second back bar from Almeida’s childhood home in New Jersey. “Some of my first memories are at age six when my Dad would drop me off at the bar he owned to go run errands in the 70s. It had been there since the 20s. When my dad later sold it, he took the back bar and put it in our basement so I grew up with it.” Back in Los Angeles, the piece was installed in the mezzanine and, once again, it was a perfect fit. This almost hidden area called Le Néant, French for ‘nothingness’, is a dedicated cocktail lounge separate from The Wolves, where, on Thursday nights, twenty guests can participate in an elevated cocktail program by reservation only, one that is often sold out months in advance. Here, Salin crafted a more intimate, lounge-style space with coffee tables, love seats and couches. Almeida’s family heirloom bar is flanked by two gilded, Italian angels donning glass eyes and real, human hair eyelashes. A photograph of the audience at a Roosevelt speech in Yonkers in the early 1910s covers the back wall, just in front of a live performance stage. Overhead are the African mahogany ceilings that Salin and Almeida painstakingly cut, stained and installed by hand, a task that took them a month and a half to complete. Although the work that went into creating The Wolves was extraordinary, it didn’t stop there. The immaculate sets were complete, the quintessential pub menu perfected and the custom waitstaff uniforms, (by LA-based clothing designer, Christy Dawn) were selected, but still, a key ingredient was missing. “I compare us to the small, independent film.” Says co-owner and Managing Partner, Isaac Mejia. “Al comes from a bar background, Daniel from an artist background and I put movies together. For me, it’s about putting all the right players in place, like finding Kevin. He is our star.”

FADE IN: INT. PUZZLE BAR – NIGHT (SUMMER 2018) Enter KEVIN LEE. Late-20s. Bartender extraordinaire. Serious, focused, passionate, hardworking and impeccably dressed. Kevin’s parents owned a popular bakery in Garden Grove when he was a child, followed by a Korean restaurant in Buena Park. Lee’s first job was doing dishes at 14 years old before entering the bar industry with his brother 6 years ago. Their highly regarded Puzzle Bar, located in a strip mall in La Mirada, CA, broke new ground on the LA bar scene. Lee was making his own Amari, bitters, liqueurs, and vermouths from scratch using only fresh, seasonal produce, changing each week based on the farmer’s market availability. A few months before opening, Mejia heard about Lee’s innovative work and approached him. “The clientele there didn’t appreciate what he was trying to do. When we met, I knew it was a perfect match,” says Mejia. It didn’t take much to convince him. When he walked into The Wolves, he immediately declared, “I belong here.” With Le Néant, the goal is to eventually open 4 days a week. “A bigger goal is for us to make an imprint on the cocktail world,” says Mejia, “We’d like to have Kevin educate and take his methods globally at some point. We want the idea of seasonality to be a bigger part of the bar world.” For Mejia, who grew up only seven blocks from The Wolves, watching Downtown LA come back to life is clearly a source of pride. “We are so happy to be a part of that. I grew up going to [LA landmark] Clifton’s as a kid. Our ultimate goal for The Wolves is longevity.”

The Wolves 519 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Monday – Sunday, 5pm - 1am

43 LA HOME | SPRING/SUMMER 2019

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LA HOME Summer 2019  

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