Author: Henry

The El Rey Ballroom

The El Rey Ballroom

An immigrant’s dream makes an iconic Boyle Heights music venue flow with ‘body rhythm’

The music is good (The Black Keys), the drinks are good (Cellar Door) and the vibes are good (Cleveland’s Latin Night)

The setting: One of the many reasons to make the trek to Boyle Heights in any case is the presence of a world-class live music performance venue, which is just part of the appeal.

“We are not just a bar, we are a social club. What is not to like: great food, great drinks, great people.”

— John Giannetti, general manager

When the building was first constructed with its distinctive triangular design back in 1955, it was set to become a nightclub called Club Ollie (so named so the owners could easily fit the name into their marketing department).

When it opened, they had big ambitions: “We wanted no two nights exactly alike. It got a little bigger in the back, so we opened a poolroom. It was in the back, as most places were then, where we had the kitchen and restaurant.”

And what it became was an epicenter for entertainment for decades in the area. The opening of the second-largest club in the United States, El Rey in 1969, just added to the scene there.

In the early 1980s, it expanded further into the adjacent parking lot as an entertainment venue, with the space called El Rey Theatre, which was later renovated into a venue called the El Rey Ballroom.

By then, it had become the home of an array of other local acts: The Black Keys, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, The Beach Boys, The Cure, Lou Reed, Joe Cocker and the Rolling Stones just to name a few.

This all came to a head when it was sold, due to the increasing popularity of the nearby L.A. Live entertainment resort, which was closing the following year.

The owner, Gary R. Young, and his partners in 2007, moved the venue to a new space, but a few years later, after a number of remodels, they decided to close it down after decades of playing it.

But when they went to sell the building, they discovered that it was already on the market.

That’s when John Giannetti, General Manager, took it

Leave a Comment