On the second Thursday of every month, something extraordinary happens in Los Angeles: Pedestrians take over. Well, they take over a large section of downtown. The reason for this abandonment of four-wheeled vehicles is the Los Angeles Art Walk.
Galleries in a roughly 28-square block corridor open their doors and stay open late, some serving wine, some offering live music. (See map) All offer an unusual chance to see the most diverse collection of body piercings and tattoos in a small geographic area.
At the north end of this urban plat is 2nd Street Cigars & Gallery. This is the place for you, dear aficionado of cigars and maybe of art, to begin your visit to the Art Walk. Get there early, get a seat, get a cigar and sit on an overstuffed leather couch. Then just relax with the "city hall guys," the politicians, the lawyers, the reporters and community activists.
On a recent Art Walk Thursday, I arrived around six o'clock and chose an Oliva V Series Robusto. The humidor selection has been "scaled back" to cigars that are more reasonably priced, explained Albert Mickail, one of the owners. "The $22 to $35 sticks, they weren't moving," he says. Still, 2nd Street offers the usual suspects, only the less expensive sizes.
2nd Street Cigars has been where it is now for about six years. It took seven different permits to be able to have a lounge. The cigar shop "inherited" the art gallery.
"It works well for marketing purposes, but downtown hasn't been much of a destination," said Mikhail. "So, businesses do a lot of joint stuff to attract people. The south end [of downtown LA] has more business than they know what to do with."
The south part of downtown L.A. is where the Lakers play and where the convention center and the relatively new L.A. Live complex attract thousands of visitors almost every day. The north part of downtown L.A. is much more about the city's business. The L.A. Times building, the courthouses, and city hall all reside on the north side. At about five o'clock or so every weekday night, the north side pretty much clears out unless there's a concert or play at, among others, the nearby Disney Concert Hall or Mark Taper Forum.
Art Walk was created in 2003 when the area in which it now occurs was designated as "Gallery Row" by the city council. There were only three galleries at the time, but a lot more potential. Now, on top of more than two-dozen galleries, some that last only a few months, there are bars and small restaurants and a barbershop called Bolt that on "The Man Big Grooming Sundays" offers "complimentary whiskey and cigars."
In essence, much of the show on Art Walk Thursdays—the art part—comes to you. 2nd Street sells cigars, yes, but it also is a gallery for some very colorful, very edgy pieces. (Take at look at the website) You can buy them and you can also see the artists coming in to hang up new works. The place even has a curator.
"We have a $70 hanging fee per artist," Mikhail said. "We get a little commission if something sells. We sell maybe two or three pieces a month."
On Art Walk Thursdays, 2nd Street might serve a little wine and stays open until midnight. On the weekends, the cigar shop is open until about two in the morning to take advantage of the line of partiers waiting to get into the Edison Club just across the alley, one of the most popular destinations in downtown L.A. these days.
"We get people coming in to have a small cigar or cigarette break while they wait to get into the club," Mikhail explained. Some cigar shop patrons averred that the people-watching was even better on those nights that the line is long.
2nd Street holds cigar tastings and poker tournaments every now and then and offers cigar-rolling services for private parties. The shop also provides "concierge services," meaning delivery of cigars to nearby hotels and clubs that have an outdoor area, like the Edison, where one can still smoke.
2nd Street Cigars is "rebooting" and expanding the lounge. For now, the shop is among those helping in the revitalization of Los Angeles. And even if you don't know art, you'll still have a cigar. And you know you like that.
2nd Street Cigars & Gallery
124 W. 2nd Street
Los Angeles, California
Monday-Tuesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Wednesday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Thursday, 10 a.m.-Midnight
Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.
Saturday, Noon-2 a.m.
Sunday, Closed-Available for Private Events