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Soak up the shock value, if you’re game

Times Staff Writer

“Anybody for Scrabble?” says a voice from the packed porch of Barbara’s, a well-hidden bar and restaurant in downtown’s sprawling artists’ colony, the Brewery.

Board games? I’d driven through this industrial maze to practice my spelling? Within this uber-urban complex of artists’ lofts and studios built from a former brewery, you’d figure that the resident painters, sculptors and designers would engage in much more creative activities. I’m here to tell you that they do.

Not that you’d expect much when you walk inside. The cavernous space doesn’t disguise its warehouse bones. The place looks like an arty collegian’s idea of industrial chic, done cheap. What’s not concrete is tin, and the furnishings are a motley assortment of well-worn couches and chairs.

The occasional artwork and the scruffy crowd provide the color. Predictably, there are men with tapestries of tattoos, pink Mohawks and paint-splattered pants. The women are in black: hair, jeans, T-shirts and shoes -- except when they appear to be wearing nothing.

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You know you’ve found a friendly bar when a woman invites strangers to touch her bare breasts -- even if they’re a part of a plastic costume.

Though the tame denim and fleece my buddy and I are wearing hardly fit the night’s perversion party theme, partygoers welcome us into their midst. A man in glittery eye shadow discusses his newfound sympathy for Janet Jackson as he struggles to anchor his slippery pink strapless gown. A woman has become newly popular as she removes her coat and displays a T-shirt with an anatomical drawing of female genitalia.

I’m trying not to stare.

Luckily, this is a bar, and all bars have TVs to redirect your eyeballs. Tonight, the bartender, wearing perky horns in honor of the party, has selected a cartoon -- anime porn.

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It’s not erotic; rather, the effect is that of a college roommate playing a prank. The guys, even the ones with horns, seem like pals, not predators. And anyway, as the community’s equivalent of the office water cooler, any shenanigans that go on at the bar are sure to be the neighbors’ top gossip before your hangover lifts. (It could be easy to drink too much, what with Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap for $2 a glass -- in honor of the Brewery’s PBR-producer past.)

But the big surprise is the wine. Five years ago, the restaurant aimed to be a fine dining destination. The owner revamped the concept, but the wine cellar remained. Now a nicely aged assortment at near-liquor-store prices fills the list.

Perhaps because Barbara’s is the neighborhood hangout, some of the Brewery’s women residents say they feel comfortable going there alone. Maybe so, but just in case it’s not perv-party night, don’t forget your shirt.

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Barbara’s at the Brewery

Where: 620 Moulton Ave., Suite 110, Los Angeles

When: 9 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Saturdays

Cost: beer $2-$3.50; cocktails $2.50-$4; wine by the glass, bottle or half-bottle, $4 to $500

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Info: (323) 221-9204


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