All you wanted was a few drinks and an early turn-in. Think again. Two friends led to four friends, and then those friends called their friends, and the group is now running 12 deep. Finding a bar that can fit everyone and make them all happy is easier said than done - but it can be accomplished. Whether you’re trying to plan your birthday party, an after-work bonding event, or you’re just dealing with a randomly huge group, we tracked down the 19 best spots to make your night as smooth as possible.
In all fairness, Spoke Bicycle isn’t really a bar. It’s an all-day hangout spot in Frogtown where drinking wine and beer with your friends is highly encouraged. The mostly outdoor space right on the LA river has giant picnic tables and there’s an attached bike rental shop in case somebody gets restless and wants to explore the bike path for a little bit. Also, come hungry - they have one of our favorite veggie burgers in the city.
If you’re looking for a good pregame spot before a Dodgers game, HPB’s newer location in Chinatown is a great option. Highland Park Brewery has been one of LA’s best craft breweries for a while, but the original location is pretty small. The new spot across the street from LA State Historic Park is in a nice big warehouse space and has a dog-friendly patio, so you can roll in with a big crew and their four-legged friends without a problem. The bar snacks are also way better than they need to be (get the cheese curds).
This rowdy musical theater piano bar in Hollywood might seem geared toward a pretty specific crowd, but in reality, it’s about as crowd-pleasing as it gets. The good-sized space has big booths lining the walls, strong and affordable cocktails, and an open area around the piano where people who don’t know each other sing show tunes together. If not everyone in your group is confident in their Rent lyrics, don’t worry - they will be by the time they stumble out.
Checker Hall is a cavernous bar in a Highland Park space that was once a Masonic Lodge. It’s huge, but is somehow always filled with just the right amount of people, and there’s always room for more. The big booths are full of after-dinner dates, the couches are packed in with friend groups lounging around like they live here, and the triangular bar is full of concert-goers trying to get in a few drinks before seeing a show next door. The Carmen #6 is one of our favorite spicy tequila drinks in the city, and if you get hungry, there’s a solid food menu as well.
There is no shortage of Downtown breweries in giant repurposed buildings, but Imperial Brewery inside Union Station is easily the most impressive. The massive space used to be an actual train terminal, but is now a multi-tiered space filled with billiards, shuffleboard, and tons of people standing around a big circular bar. The beer itself is better than what you’ll find at most Downtown breweries and the oysters and aguachile might be the only raw seafood we condone eating inside of a train station.
Tiki bars tend to be pretty small, where hiding away in some dark nook with a date or a few friends is half the fun. Not Lono. The tiki bar right on Hollywood Blvd. is massive, with several different rooms, a lounge area, and a full restaurant in the back. It can get crowded at peak times on the weekends, but never so obnoxious you want to leave. The drinks are strong, the service is quick, and if you and the crew manage to snag a couch in the middle room, you won’t move for the rest of the night.
After a long day of laying out at Hermosa Beach, you and your friends are looking for some liquid encouragement to get you through the night. Hermosa has no lack of bars, but the newest one, Tower 12, is already one of the best. Located directly on the pier, Tower 12 has the requisite beach decor and laid-back atmosphere, but with enough space for the whole group to roll into and find a corner to take over. FYI: this place gets rowdy on the weekends.
Precinct is the best gay club downtown. Known for dangerously strong drinks, rowdy drag shows, and enough room for you and your 20 best friends to get weird on the dance floor, there are few nights sloppier than a night at Precinct. This isn’t where you go to post up at a big table with your friends and discuss each other’s best attributes, it’s where you go to get a little wild and put the pieces back together in the morning.
Attention: Your favorite Hollywood bar is back and it’s as good as ever. No, Cat & Fiddle’s new patio (it took over the old Mud Hen Tavern space on Melrose and Highland) can’t compete with its old, legendary courtyard on Sunset, but it’s still an excellent space with a low-key, neighborhood bar atmosphere. If you just wrapped a show up at one of the black box theaters on Santa Monica Blvd. and the whole cast decided to tag along for a drink, Cat & Fiddle is your move.
From the outside, Bar Clacson looks more like a foreclosed insurance office than it does a legitimate bar. But walk inside this Downtown drinking spot and you’ll find a huge, industrial space full of things to keep your big group occupied. There admittedly isn’t much seating here (it’s basically just a long bar and some scattered high tops), but nobody will care when they’re on their feet playing games anyways. Think foosball and a full-scale bocce ball court in the actual bar. Oh, and those cocktails are pretty good too.
Give your friends great beer, good food, and a big space to spread out and everything else tends to fall into place. Located downtown (inside an old discount tire store), Mikkeller became an area mainstay the second it opened. The Danish craft beer bar (with only a few other locations around the world) has one of the best craft beer selections around and a bar menu that’s actually great (get the burger). If you’ve got a big group going to see something at Staples, Mikkeller is the prime pre-game spot.
This 90-year-old Silver Lake landmark has been everything from a jail-themed speakeasy to a community theater, but is now a bonafide supper club where you can make a night of it with dinner and a show (did someone say Flamenco?). Even if that’s not your vibe, El Cid is still one of the best places to grab a drink and lounge outside with the crew. The massive patio is always welcoming, and never gets so crowded you want to die (or just go home).
When in doubt, Red Lion Tavern is always the move. The German beer garden has been one of our Eastside go-to drink spots for a while now, but when you’ve got a big group in tow, it’s a pretty inevitable solution. Its Bavarian theme is kind of overkill, but when you’re sitting on that massive back patio with a boot of beer next to you, you want all of it. And also another boot of beer.
Button Mash technically isn’t a bar, but you can definitely drink there and we love it and so will your friends so we don’t care. The Echo Park arcade bar/restaurant has lines out the door on the weekends, but when a place is this great, it’s to be expected. So what’s everyone here for? A fantastic, modern space that never feels cramped, excellent arcade games, and the best Chinese drunk food in the city.
Omg, you want the best birthday ever but everyone’s being so completely lame, but it’s also your birthday, and like, you need this. This reconverted craftsman is full of just-out-of-college children, but the space is also amazing. Ocean views, multiple indoor and outdoor spaces, and a ridiculously attractive clientele. Go live your best life.
Highland Park might not be the most conveniently-located area of town to get your friends to on a Saturday night, but once they see what’s happening at Block Party (and the rest of York Blvd. for that matter), their bitching will cease. The colorful beer bar might not look like much from the sidewalk, but that back patio is as good as it gets. Great beer, good atmosphere, and a retro hot dog cart on the premises - no further convincing needed.
Located in a massive warehouse in the heart of the Arts District, lines at Angel City can definitely get long on the weekend, but once you’re inside you basically have enough room for you and the group to do whatever you want. Cornhole, food trucks, live music, and lots and lots of day drinking.
El Tejano certainly becomes a shot-fueled slopfest quickly on the weekend, but no one can tell you that front patio of theirs isn’t a hell of a good time on a Saturday afternoon. With a full bar and everything from cornhole to life-sized Connect Four, if your group of friends can’t find fun here, you need new friends. Drinks are dirt cheap (and come served in gigantic plastic goblets) and there’s even a self-serve tortilla chip bin. Everybody wins.
Laugh all you want, but when it comes to skipping out on a night at Dave & Buster’s, the joke’s simply on you. This adult Chuck E. Cheese for the drinking inclined is always a good time, and the Hollywood and Highland location is not nearly as depressing as the one you went to in Omaha. So grab your nearest 15 friends who know how to live their lives to the fullest and start racking up those game tickets. Warning: be there by 10pm or be prepared to wait in line.