Thanks to Karaoke with Kiki, the Prince O’ Whales is an unlikely college hotspot on Tuesday nights

By Ellie O’Brian

What might look like a dive bar from the outside (and on the inside many nights of the week) is more like a nightclub on Tuesday evenings when classes are in session

What might look like a dive bar from the outside (and on the inside many nights of the week) is more like a nightclub on Tuesday evenings when classes are in session

For a college student in West Los Angeles, the Prince O’Whales is a rite of passage.

Of all the local haunts to celebrate your 21st birthday, P.O.W.’s — as we like to call it — is often a first choice.

What might look like a dive bar from the outside (and on the inside many nights of the week) is more like a nightclub on Tuesday evenings when classes are in session. One night this December I actually had to wait in line to get in! So let’s just say P.O.W.’s has built a reputation with local twentysomethings as a “let’s pretend it’s the weekend” destination.

Tuesday night is “Karaoke with Kiki.” With multiple rooms and a back patio, the bar can handle far more people than you would expect.

The darts room, with its mismatched chairs and the perpetually busy bar, is home to no one but students, and apparently we can’t get enough $15 Bud Light pitchers.

The older crowd takes over the back patio; they also share in appreciation of a Tuesday night out but seem to distance themselves from younger partiers.

The karaoke room is where the crowd comes together.

Kiki and her sign-up sheet appear to be the sole reasons that the night maintains any sort of order. At the end of each song, the next group is called up, usually after a few announcements.

On a recent Tuesday night, my friends and I watched girls dressed for a night in Hollywood screech a Spice Girls throwback. Then some inebriated professors, still in their work clothes, belted a Seal song. These shameless performances were followed by a truly talented musical protégé singing “American Idol” hits. The great thing, however, is the audience cheers no matter the quality of the performance.

I’m told Prince O’Whales first opened in the 1950s and is known as one of the oldest sports bars in Los Angeles, though it moved around a few times before settling in its current location in Playa del Rey. The bar’s website jokes they were kicked out by their neighbors. Considering the sign urging patrons to “Respect Our Neighbors” (hanging in between dated endorsements for Bud Light and Stella Artois), maybe they weren’t kidding.

During my visit I spoke to a bartender named Kim who grew up in the area and said P.O.W’s has been a focal point for Playa del Rey for as long as she can remember. Asked how she feels about all of us rowdy college students, Kim said we’re fun — with the exception of a group who stole a trophy a few weeks back. Door manager John Greene agreed that he liked the “youthful energy” and said students continue to come back to visit the bar long after graduation. Students are also the reason that his job of checking IDs is so crucial.

The scene may calm down a bit as schools’ spring semesters draw to a close, but there you have it. The secret is out: On Tuesdays, P.O.W.’s is the place for students to see and be seen.

Other nights are fun, too, and also attract a class-starts-at-noon crowd. Brighten your Monday with a two-draft and burger special, hear live music Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, or come back for more karaoke on Thursdays and Sundays.

For a different scene, Prince O’Whales opens at 9 a.m. on the weekends with half-off specials from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Legend (and the website) has it the place even serves a solid breakfast, though you may be hard-pressed to find a student who can verify.

Prince O’Whalesl 335 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey (310) 823-9826 princeowhales.com

Ellie O’Brien graduated from Loyola Marymount University last week.

Share