The Lincoln is a weekend hotspot crafting itself into a neighborhood destination

By Andrew Dubbins

Nobody brought vinyl to The Lincoln’s bring-your-own vinyl night the Tuesday before last. The bartender tells me the weekly event hasn’t caught on yet — after all, this was just the second try. The deejay worries the crowd is too young. This is Venice, after all.

Tucked behind a wall on the east side of Lincoln Boulevard north of Washington, The Lincoln is a hip new bar trying to feel old. There’s a Model T in the back office, wheel flaps padding the south wall, Edison light bulbs and antique furniture. The theme of the bar is technically automobiles, but the bartender admits that “people say it looks like the Bungalow,” referring to the trendy lounge bar in Santa Monica.

It’s a slow night that Tuesday, with a couple dozen patrons, mostly in their twenties. Typical of Venice, the men wore either plaid or hoodies, and outnumbered the women three to one. The bartender wore suspenders.

The drink menu, written in an antique-looking font, listed $12 cocktails with old-timey names like Attaboy (a rum drink with lime, apricot and Aperol), The Rumor Mill (a vodka drink with lemon, sage, grapefruit and sherry) and Every Man Jack (rye, brandy, Carpano and muscavado). It’s not just about artful surroundings and pretty girls here — connoisseurs relish these balanced mixtures of choice ingredients. I order a “Boulevardier” — bourbon, Campari, Carpano and orange bitters — and savor it slowly as the bartender describes the history of this place.

The gist is that The Lincoln opened about a year ago in the renovated former home of the Red Garter Club, and it gets super packed on the weekends. I recall a term I just learned: Mello-Roos, a separate property tax in brand-new communities to fund parks, schools and public services. These new Westside bars catering to the area’s wealthy tech-industry demographic always feel the same to me, with their vintage decor and custom cocktails. But perhaps I need to give them some time. Like a Mello-Roos neighborhood, they’re still taking shape, still finding their identity.

After finishing my drink, I walk out to the spacious patio anchored by a large communal table. That’s where the deejay, who also handles publicity, is spinning vinyl from the ’80s, which was tonight’s theme. A middle-aged music buff, he’d sifted through his collection of thousands of records to select 200 for the evening.

“Do you think people realize these are all ’80s tunes?” I ask.

The Lincoln is a new bar that feels old, but in a good way

“Probably not,” he says, adding that somebody will compliment his set occasionally, but the music IQ is generally low. The bar has also tried doing a Cinco de Mayo party and a Jazz Night. They’ve hosted Venice Art Crawl and Venice Chamber of Commerce events.

The Lincoln is clawing for an identity, I later realize, like the high-school kid who joins a grunge band one week and the lacrosse team the next.

Another thing the deejay-publicist told me is that the Lincoln also hosts a happy hour for dogs, which caught my attention. The Lincoln is a pooch-friendly establishment, and its doggy happy hours raise money for the canine rescue charity Best Friends. He says that even though they came up with the idea to call it Yappy Hour on their own, the bar had to change it to Dog Day Afternoon after a lawyer called and threatened a lawsuit, insisting that Yappy Hour was trademarked.

Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. Before identity, you need character. And a character is emerging here.

The Lincoln celebrates its first anniversary on Saturday and Sunday (May 27 and 28) with complimentary cocktail samplings and barbecue from 4 to 6 p.m., live music by the indie rock band Smoky Nights from 4 to 8 p.m., and deejays spinning afterward until to close.

The Lincoln 2536 Lincoln Blvd., Venice (310) 822-1715