Among the truly historic bars still around Los Angeles, none are more connected to their history than Cole’s. Other than being able to get a proper cocktail and great French Dip sandwich, it’s old bones is a major part of the draw. And if we narrow our scope down to exactly which part of Cole’s history is most talked about, any bartender holding court behind the rail will tell you it is “The Professionals.”
This is my second attempt at writing this piece, the first one may have been a little too journalistic and I have been asked to write something more in my own words; from my own point of view. And I will. But for those of you perusing this article that have never been to Cole’s, The Professionals board which sits behind the bar needs a little bit of explanation.
The Professionals were a group of guys (and one woman) who frequented Cole’s in the Fifties and Sixties. They were traders at The Pacific Stock Exchange which was located at Sixth and Spring (now some lofts occupy the building) and frequented Cole’s so much so that the Owner at the time installed a phone on the end of the bar which had a direct line to the trading room floor, so that they didn’t have to stop working to start drinking and vice versa. They were regulars for so long that Cole’s was like a second home to them. They became close personal friends with the owner at the time, and the idea came about to create a board which would sit behind the bar with all of their names on it. The board sits there to this day.
About a year ago, during Saturday brunch shifts, I became acquainted with the former owner who began coming in for a drink during visits to downtown. Because I’m a pretty gregarious guy and because he was in the midst of a walk down memory lane, our conversations quickly switched from friendly banter to his experiences as the owner of Cole’s then ultimately and unsurprisingly to The Professionals. I was as curious as our customers about the board, and other than the little tidbits of information the other bartenders and I could gather, I didn’t know too much about the place. He began by telling me about who they were and where they were from, but soon had to go to meeting ( he’s now a successful real estate broker), but promised he’d be back, and if he could he’d bring as many of the Professionals who are still alive as he could.
He did not disappoint. A few weeks later, he came in with as many of the Professionals he could muster. They regaled us with tales of the heavy drinking good times they’d had at Coles, from a Thanksgiving day “Turkey Shoot” where shots of Wild Turkey 101 were lined up on the rail and shot by everyone, to fights which destroyed much of the bar and repayment of several thousand dollars were due, which they all gladly chipped in and payed. You could tell that Coles was such a huge part of their lives and held such great memories for them. And that is something that we aim to continue the tradition of. We realized that the close personal connection to Coles The Professionals had, is really the heart of the bar. It is something we strive to continue. One of the most asked questions is: “Are you going to add to the Professionals board?” followed closely by “If you do, how do I get my name up there?” I’m happy to say that after a lot of ruminating about this idea, kicking it around for at least as long as I have been a bartender at Coles, if not longer, we have continued the tradition and have posted our first three names. How do you get your name up there? Come in, have a drink and find out.
Leandro DiMonriva, Cole’s Red Car Bar, Bartender