The Edison, a power plant basement-turned-upscale bar has been transporting patrons into a timeless era for over 8 years now. Many Angelenos have already marveled at its steampunk-playground interior, its preserved turbine steam generators and utility tunnels. And while the live burlesque and aerial shows now boast higher production values, not too much has changed over at The Edison.
But perhaps that’s precisely why The Edison is still relevant as a bar — why it’s even more relevant now than before: it was the first. Buoyed by killer modern cocktails and a solid food menu, the Downtown mainstay has been marrying elements old and new for many years, well before co-opting old warehouses, lofts, and industrial spaces became a thing.
“In 1998, there were 30 liquor licenses in Downtown. Now, there are nearly 450,” says Barbara Jacobs, Chief Operations Officer of The Edison. “The Edison was the first big venue of its time, and a big investment for the community. I deeply believe that Andrew Meieran changed the face of Downtown.”
Jacobs, a do-gooder of Leslie Knope-ian proportions, met Meieran, owner of The Edison, Clifton’s, and several other Downtown properties, years ago at a charity mixer where the two both expressed an interest in contributing to the community in a meaningful way. She now helms Meieran’s properties, and utilizes the financial clout of these establishments to give back to people in the community rather than displace them.
Hiring at The Edison, for instance, is extremely progressive. Management staffs their facilities straight from local rehabilitation organizations, including Union Rescue Mission, the Downtown Women’s Center, and The Midnight Mission. “When you walk through the door — that’s your first day,” says Jacobs, who serves on the leadership board of several Downtown non-profits. “Once we hire you, everyone is equal here.”
The Edison’s bar and drink menu also reflects a socially conscientious spirit. Proceeds of The Happy Herbie cocktail, a whiskey drink made of Templeton Rye, Jasmine liqueur, and bitters, go toward college scholarships for young artists. The bar has featured drought-friendly drink menus in the past, and also provides options for those who choose not to imbibe, such as The Natasha and The Amelie, two non-alcoholic cocktails named after Meieran’s two daughters. Drinking responsibly is highly encouraged— a pretty novel concept, for a bar. “We try to give some kind of offering to the community everyday that we’re open,” says Jacobs. “We’re hoping to create a community of givers.”