A bar’s identity is a development that takes time. That’s why a brand-new venue is such a beautiful thing. Just showing up and grabbing a seat makes you feel like you’re part of the process.
It was close to midnight when I stumbled upon Industry Alley, a budding young bar nestled in the Cedars, near Club Los Rieles and Absinthe Lounge. Once my companion and I claimed a spot at the shiny, zinc-topped bar, the bearded bartender, Ben, told us that Industry Alley doesn’t have a cocktail menu, but that he’d be happy to make just about anything. I glanced around. The patrons seemed a good mix—attractive couples and solo old men, bar industry folks and neighborhood wanderers—and the drinks in front of them were equally diverse, from beers to multi-ingredient cocktails.
“What’s the best thing you can make?” I asked.
“Not to toot my own horn, but I make a lot of best things,” Ben said. A quick interview on our preferences soon had him mixing a Sazerac for my whiskey-loving friend and a dry, sour Jasmine for me.
Ben’s fellow bartender, a petite woman, looked skeptical. “I can’t make a Sazerac without a torch,” she said, laughing when he whipped out a dainty red lighter.
As my companion enjoyed his Sazerac, I basked in Industry Alley’s sense of newness. It’s low-lit and stripped-down, replete with corrugated metal. The venue is split into two rooms. One contains the bar, a cozy corner nook, and a smattering of tables. The other is a retro dive-lover’s paradise with neon beer signs, pool tables, pinball machines, and arcade games. Eventually, the siren song of the games was too strong. We abandoned the bartenders and their manager, Mike, just as the three took shots together—“staff meeting,” Mike called it.
The second room of the bar was particularly clean and quiet. It felt like a dive bar that hadn’t been “dived” into yet. After we’d burned a few quarters on Cruis’n World, we moved on to pool. Amid much profanity and dusts of blue chalk, I eventually triumphed by a single ball. I promptly retired from all competition, and my friend stomped over to one of the pinball games.
While he pinballed, I returned to the bar and struck up a conversation with Mike, the manager. He told me that Industry Alley opened on August 20 and is owned by Charlie Papaceno, the “godfather of cocktails” and former co-owner of Windmill Lounge.
When asked if Industry Alley is a dive in the making, Mike told me that “neighborhood bar” is more accurate.
“A bar can’t be a dive for 20 or 25 years,” he said. “Plus, we actually have windows.”
Mike also assured me they have no intention of going down the “cocktail rabbit hole.” The bartenders pride themselves on their drink-crafting capabilities but have no qualms about serving up a beer and a shot.
“Except Jäger shots,” Mike said. Why? “Because Jäger is bad,” a woman dressed all in black called out. I conceded that Jäger shots usually spell disaster, then asked the lady if she was already a regular. “I was counting the seconds till this place opened,” she said. Was it all she’d hoped for? “Everything and more,” she said.
Meanwhile, my friend returned from his pinball game, announcing that he’d set the high score. Though, come to think of it, he may have been the first person ever to play it.