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The Eight Best Punk Bars and Venues in Los Angeles

This may be the last generation of beautifully grimy punk bars and venues in a city that is overdeveloping all of these counterculture community spaces into the post-gentrification abyss. Go and support by buying drinks at all these places to make sure they stick around for the next generation.

1:58 PM PDT on September 27, 2023

At the risk of being labeled a poser and burning out the spots, I will go against the time-honored punk tradition of gatekeeping and present all the vestiges of proper DIY punk bars and venues in L.A. County. Many have come and gone throughout the last four decades, some engraved forever in the annals of American punk history. To hopefully prevent these refreshingly grimy venues from joining the ranks of Al’s Bar, The Vex, and hell even, CAFE NELA.

Los Angeles has always been the epicenter of American punk rock and hardcore. Contrary to the belief of many, punk never died after that first wave, made strong by the likes of The Germs, Youth Brigade, The Dickies, and dozens of other bands that came out during that era in the late 70s and early 80s. Punk rock in Los Angeles is a living, breathing force that depends on fresh faces and emerging anti-everything attitudes to keep these bars alive. 

I’m putting out this official list to enjoy what will perhaps be the last generation of rundown punk bars in a city that is looking to overdevelop all of these counterculture community spaces into the post-gentrification abyss. Most importantly, most of these venues give the bands all their door sale money to the bands! Support, take it easy on the pre-gaming for once, and buy booze at these places to ensure they stick around as long as possible. 

Local punk band Rolex performing at The Sardine. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

The Sardine ~ San Pedro 

The Sardine in San Pedro tops the list of punk bars in L.A. that will live up to all your expectations and make you remember a Los Angeles that only exists in nostalgia. Raw punkness exudes from every single nook and cranny of this fine punk establishment, from its name honoring the fact that it does get as hot and stuffy as being packed like sardines, to its secret stage located behind a hole in the wall covered by a jukebox. The space fits a couple of hundred stinky punks, and parking is free. But the best part is their fresh beer on tap from local breweries that don’t break the $7 to $8 mark per pint. The bar just got its liquor license to attract aging punks who can’t crush ‘em as hard as they used to, so now you can finally come in for a beer and a shot. As the name suggests, you can also buy a can of sardines and crackers to fuel your pogo-ing to the touring band who chose to play at this tiny venue in San Pedro  

1101 S Pacific Ave. San Pedro, CA 90731

Goatwhore at Alex's Bar. Photo via Facebook.

Alex’s Bar ~ Long Beach

Alex’s Bar is a real-time screenshot of Long Beach’s alternative punk community. The independent bar and venue has been open for 23 years and its offerings as a legitimate bar have matured along with its punk regulars, offering excellent rum and whiskey cocktails along with an impressive beer menu that always boasts at least one wild fermented sour ale from the nearby Blendery.

The tribute wall inside the bar pays respects to punk legends who have moved on, with velvet portraits of artists like Steve Soto and Gabby Gaborno, and is almost worth going for alone. The sound is great inside, and the intimate vibe has attracted artists from other genres who can sell out venues four times the size to play here instead, like Thee Sacred Souls. Owner Alex Hernandez is known to come out to enjoy the shows, so if you see him, make sure to say "thanks" for keeping Long Beach punk.

 2913 E Anaheim St. Long Beach, CA 90804

Dozens of punks huddled outside First Street's patio out back. Photo by Angel Peralta for L.A. TACO.

First Street Pool & Billiards Parlor ~ Boyle Heights

Once upon a time, East L.A.’s and Boyle Heights’ backyard punk rock scenes were booming with DIY shows every single weekend, but most have ceased to be thanks to gentrification and a slew of new neighbors who love to call the cops. In its place lies First Street Pool & Billiards Parlor, located a block away from Mariachi Plaza. This is a paisa bar in L.A.’s metro area that moonlights as a DIY punk venue whenever Ignacio “Nacho” Rodriguera, Roman Dangerfield, and Nick Saracho of Nothing Less Booking feel like they need a raw venue to give iconic punk bands a proper L.A. punk welcome. Last month, Special Duties and Zero Boys sold it out; the next month, SubHumans sold out their upcoming show, too. In any case, follow Nacho and his booking account to know where L.A.’s latest and greatest punk shows are happening. He’s been keeping L.A.’s DIY punk scene alive for the last two decades (and activated this old billiards bar to become a punk space).

1906 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

Photo via @emovspoppunkparty and @knittingfactorynoho/Instagram.

The Knitting Factory ~ North Hollywood 

The Valley has been starved for a proper music venue with the closure of multiple live venues, including the CIA, White Oak Music, and the venerable Cobalt Cafe. Enter The NoHo Knitting Factory, which has taken a permanent home on the second floor of The Federal Bar for the past year. You couldn’t ask for a better location for your favorite touring punk band to book a date. Surrounded by the Arts District and situated across from the Metrolink station, accessing the venue for non-Valley residents and making a date couldn’t be easier. The venue has hosted such well-known acts as Punk Rock Karaoke, Voodoo Glowskulls, The Bouncing Souls, Youth Brigade, and more With a monthly roster of in-house events and the addition of all-ages shows, this venue should have no problem introducing a younger generation to the DIY punk lifestyle. - Noe Adame

5303 Lankershim Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91601

Clorox Dream at Supply & Demand. Photo via @supply_and_demand_lbc via @erickcastles/Instagram.

Supply & Demand ~ Long Beach

There is a higher punk-to-normie ratio in Long Beach, and the fact that there are two DIY punk bars and venues in Long Beach located within a mile is a testament to this reality. The stage is tiny, and the space to get in the pit for your favorite band is tinier, but the sound is excellent, and the beer is cheap. On any given night, you may catch a French Oi! Band, a traditional skinhead reggae band, or a mini black metal festival. They also have a full liquor license and may be running a fernet special, so always ask what liquor the bartender is currently into. 

2500 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, CA 90804

Ugly playing at Knuckleheads in December 2022. Photo courtesy of @dookieemo/Instagram via Ugly.

Knuckleheads ~ Hollywood

If you think DIY punk venues are rare, wait until you step into L.A.’s DIY dimly lit metal and darkwave goth bar. In West Hollywood, no less. The stage is beautifully makeshift right next to the bathrooms, so you have to get in the pit if you need to take a whizz. It is also proudly Latino-metalhead-owned, boasting a full bar and mostly door ticket sales. But perhaps the most charming element of this bar and venue is the spacious patio in the back, where you’ll find the merch tables and some much-needed fresh air after the smell of musty leather gets too much. Shows here lean towards darkwave, post-punk, and metal, but L.A.’s alternative scenes are all about unity so you can rest assured showgoers will always pick you up if you fall in the pit, no matter what band shirt you wear. - Mario Quezada 

6202 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038

Photo via @sanfernandovalleycommunity/Instagram.

The New Scotland Yard Pub ~ Canoga Park

If you’re looking for long-standing punk bars and venues in the Valley, then look no further than (The New) Scotland Yard Pub in Canoga Park. Beautifully grimy with a bar full of history and spilled Guinness, a general sense of punkness just emanates from the building. A place where the regulars come to play some pool, catch a live show, and hang out behind the bar. There was a time when you would catch your favorite touring band knocking down some drinks while chomping on pizza from Jerry’s before their show at the infamous Cobalt Cafe. This bar offers a much more intimate vibe with the small stage located in the middle of the bar. Punk, metal, and jazz cover bands rule the monthly calendar and rocksteady dance nights. Befriend your bartender and behave yourself for the chance to get their signature green playing chip for a free drink. They also offer a wide selection of ales and whiskies alongside wine and cider drinks for every taste. - Noe Adame

22041 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, CA 91303

Chain Cult from Greece playing at Unfair Oaks. Photo courtesy of Mario Quesada.

Unfair Oaks ~ Pasadena 

Aside from being a truly underground space for DIY punk that exists off the grid and is BYOB, there is not much else to know about this precious community space in northern Pasadena—and that’s okay. Some spaces are meant to be reserved for the active punk community who do the work of keeping L.A.’s punk scene alive. If you don’t know, then ask your local DIY punk. 

Address: Ask a Punk

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