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Boyle Heights Locals Team Up For a Cocktail Spot Near the River

Some of the city’s best bartenders are going out on their own in the neighborhood

The Va’La Hospitality team
Va’La Hospitality [official]
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Two of Los Angeles’s most prominent bartenders are teaming up for a new project in Boyle Heights, as local boys Othón Nolasco and Aaron Melendrez look to start stirring drinks with a new creative space and cocktail bar — eventually.

The unnamed bar project is the culmination of months of conversations the pair (along with partner Damian Diaz) have had with community locals and those in the industry, mostly focused on what Boyle Heights might need and want in a bar, and what the two longtime friends can do to help. Nolasco and Melendrez both grew up in the neighborhood and Nolasco still lives there, making the decision to open a bar on that side of the river as personal as it gets.

Nolasco is known for his role as bar manager at Everson Royce Bar in the Arts District, widely regarded as one of the city’s best places to drink. Melendrez has been moving around the city implementing and improving bar programs at restaurants and watering holes both small and large. He was the opening bar lead at Salazar, and has roots at places like the bygone Pistola on West Third Street.

Now they’re all forming up to make Va’La Hospitality, doing events and consultation around the city in addition to working on this new space. For a time the building will be a home base for the group’s business side, but will eventually transition into a place to hang out and drink all its own. However, there’s no official timetable for when the transition to an open-to-the-public bar happens.

Nolasco, Diaz, and Melendrez aren’t putting a timetable on things in part because of the neighborhood, which has suffered at the hands of unwanted development in recent years. Some have been fighting back, protesting coffee shops and art galleries that they feel don’t accurately represent the neighborhood. With time, the Va’La team is intent on showing not only that they are opening as a positive part of the community, but that these Boyle Heights locals also been there all along.

768 S. Boyle Ave.
Los Angeles, CA