Basement Tavern

Speakeasy
Basement Tavern Basement Tavern in Santa Monica is a romping Los Angeles speakeasy located beneath a restored mansion. Drop down on this hidden LA haunt with Party Earth. Los Angeles United States 34.001647 -118.483517
3.54 19
Basement Tavern - Speakeasy in Los Angeles.
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Lucas
Adriana
Jonah
Emma

Party Earth Review Buried beneath the beautiful mansion/event space The Victorian, Basement Tavern is a casual speakeasy, so hidden that visitors would have to be profoundly lost to stumble upon it. In-the-know patrons proceed around... ... read full review

  • Hours:

    Daily 5pm–2am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth Basement Tavern Review

The Scene

Basement Tavern in Santa Monica is a romping Los Angeles speakeasy located beneath a restored mansion. Drop down on this hidden LA haunt with Party Earth.

Buried beneath the beautiful mansion/event space The Victorian, Basement Tavern is a casual speakeasy, so hidden that visitors would have to be profoundly lost to stumble upon it.

In-the-know patrons proceed around back, through a wooden doorway, past an open kitchen, and finally down two flights of stairs before discovering a space that exudes an illicit vibe similar to partying in a friend’s basement in high school.

Must be a wealthy friend!

Wall-sized chalkboards, animal heads, and high-backed velvet king chairs decorate the main room, lit only by scant overhead chandeliers and tableside candles.

Early in the week, creative types kick back with Modern Fashioneds – an updated twist on the Old Fashioned made with blackberries and agave – or go really old school with a few belts of Bathtub Gin, while Happy Hour finds chill young professionals playing board games and enjoying $3 drink specials and half-price grub.

In distinctly non-vintage fashion, a Nintendo Wii in the back room attracts college kids later in the evening.

Live bands play almost nightly, with bluegrass on Wednesdays that perfectly complements the aura of the laid-back whiskey drinkers hanging by the bar. Come the weekends, however, the musicians crank up the party with high-energy classic rock that packs in the patrons from 10pm on.

Every night can be different at Basement Tavern, from mellow subterranean den to not-so-secret party space – and that’s exactly why folks keep dropping down for more.

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Tip from Emma:

The Tavern can fill up in the blink of an eye between 9 and 10pm, so get there well before 10pm if you don’t want to wait in line. Once they hit capacity, it’s one in/one out for the rest of the night.

  • Crowd

    Varies from cozy couples, college kids playing games, and whiskey-sipping hipsters early in the evening to jam band fans and trendier party types rocking to bluegrass and classic rock well into the night, early 20s to early 30s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Live bands play everything from bluegrass to rock Tuesdays through Saturdays. Wii in the back “fishbowl” room. Various board games available on Sundays and Mondays.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Small menu of American comfort food and some more upscale items including flank steak, calamari, and brisket sandwiches. Happy Hour 5–8pm M–Sa and all night Su.

  • Prices

    Small plates and entrées $10–$20. Beer $4–$10, wine $8–$12/glass or $32–$60/bottle, cocktails $10–$12.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Trendy hipster to upscale casual: parachute pants, button-downs, hoodies, ironic t-shirts, fitted jeans, flirty tops, flowy dresses, flats, heels.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Bluegrass Wednesdays for a fun and lively older crowd, or Thursdays through Saturdays for a young hotspot with high-energy live music.

  • Close By

    Circle Bar (2926 Main Street) is a long-standing neighborhood staple that attracts a flirty young party crowd on the weekends.

Basement Tavern User Reviews

Average rating:
Cramped but worth it
Randall H. Jun 26, 2013
The basement is a super cool bar underneath the Victorian in Santa Monica. The space is super small and cramped, but it's worth the venture. If there's a band tucked into the corner, prepare for a good time. The dance area is packed and lively. This is a whiskey bar. Get a whiskey cocktail. I recommend a Whiskey River, but check the chalkboard on the wall for the menu. If you make friends with the bartenders, they might name a cocktail after you!
Always a Good Time
Teddi C. Apr 18, 2013
This past Friday, after a familiar club vs bar feud amongst friends, a nearly as familiar decision was made: The Basement Tavern. The beauty of The Victorian that is house to the basement satisfies the standard weekend craving for glitz, while the Basement Tavern beneath its floors really has something for everyone. The hoppy live music, packed bar, and fashionable party goers create a buzzy and energetic atmosphere, while the basement setting, beer selection, and college band setup, leave no shortage of relaxed, university-style appeal. The broad beverage selection is displayed spunkily on various blackboards, and unlike the slightly more contained atmosphere upstairs, it’s completely appropriate to yell for a Sierra Nevada over your friend’s head and do it three more times if you started during a guitar solo. The beautiful front yard and dark wood floors of The Victorian overhead provide easy relief to patrons when they’re ready to strike up a conversation, amongst their own party or any number of tasteful strangers. My friends and I enjoyed the Basement Tavern for dancing, drinks, and uninhibited expressions of energy before simply walking upstairs and taking in a picturesque California evening in the courtyard. The Basement Tavern has a lot to offer anyone who finds its entrance behind the grand house, and is a place where it’s difficult to have less than a damn good time.
Speakeasy-esque
Julie T. Dec 8, 2012
I love this place!! You have to know where to enter and from there you go through a small hallway, down some sketchy stairs, and find yourself in a dimly lit, intimate setting with soft chairs, chalkboards all around for drawing and goofing off, and creative interior design in general. The drinks are classy creative cocktails and the bartenders are very welcoming and nice. On busy nights the place can get extremely crowded with a long wait to get in, which for me, I don't like as much, but there is live music with bands with great presence and some entertaining patrons. Get there early or go on an off night if you don't like waiting!
Cute Bartenders, live music, free entry, good drinks!
Jessica B. Dec 5, 2012
I have been in attendance to The Basement on multiple occassions. The atmosphere is awesome, with chalkboard walls all around open to express your drunken thoughts, the drinks are heavily poured, possibly because I am known as a regular there, and the music is banging. None of the top 20 singles are played, thank God. Many times there is a live band playing on the corner stage, and if you mosey yourself enough to the front, you can have your own little dance floor. There are comfy couches all around to chill and conversate, and even a private glass room with more chalkboard walls to have your own provate party. The Basement is super chill, with so many different people coming in and out on any given night.
Favorite place in Santa monica
Rachel S. Nov 29, 2012
This is by far my favorite place to go when I am in santa monica. There is always a fun time to be had here. Although there can be an annoying wait, I always think it is worth the time to get in. You dont have to go down to the basement if you dont want to because there is space and a bar upstairs and outside seating areas. The basement itself is kind of small but I dont mind that. They also have pretty interesting performers, which makes it different and fun. A variety of people come to the Basement but I love it!
A Fun Surprise at the end of The Tunnel
Angelica A. Nov 15, 2012
Having no preconceived understanding of this place I was kind of confused when I walked into what looks like a pretty swanky restaurant with a more 'mature' crowd. But the second I was taken down the rabbit hole by my friends I quickly realized that this was no mistake. This downstairs bar/lounge has the same Victorian feel as the upstairs restaurant, but is packed with a young westsiders. Drinks are somewhat over priced in my opinion but here I think you pay more for the atmosphere than for the drink itself. It becomes somewhat of a club once it gets busier on the weekends, so expect to rub up on some bodies if you're trying to get around the bar. One thing I do really appreciate about this spot is that they often have live music playing earlier on in the night. I would recommend this place if you go with a small group, and if you don't have a problem spending your paycheck, but it's not the best for mingling or making friends.
It's not JUST a basement...
alison t. Nov 7, 2012
The entire building itself is simply gorgeous. It is often used for special events such as weddings. But, the crowd can change in a heartbeat, depending on the day and time. The Victorian is a great spot, if you’re in the mood for it. The scenery and architecture of the outdoor patio create a great ambiance for a nice, quiet lunch or dinner. It’s a bit pricey, but what do you expect from a place called the Victorian? You have to be at least slightly extravagant or lavish. The building is elegant, which creates a slight contrast to the crowd it draws on a weekend night. Each level has a very different vibe. The basement draws a younger crowd and fills up quickly. Once they reach capacity you may have to wait to get downstairs. Personally, I don’t see what the rush is to get down to the dark, cramped, sweaty basement bar posing as an underground club/speakeasy. It’s usually packed shoulder to shoulder with 20-somethings dancing to a local band. It takes too long to get a drink and it’s not worth having to rub up on some sweaty dude to reach the bar. The middle level is quieter and a little more “sophisticated.” That’s where the “business people” grabbing a post work drink gather along with the dinner crowd sitting and gabbing after their meals. And, later in the night, you will still find some 30 to 40 year old dressed in suits looking like they just came from work. It’s easier to hear if you’re looking to actually have a conversation. The bar isn’t too crowded and you can usually get a drink quickly. The upstairs is my favorite. It’s the library of the house. Books line the walls and big comfy couches occupy a room with a grand piano. The atmosphere is peaceful and quiet and it’s much easier to get a drink at the upstairs bar. There’s usually only a few people hanging out, ordering drinks and appetizers until about 10pm. That’s when they clear away the tables and chairs to make room for a dance floor if it’s a Friday or Saturday. I love the weekend nights with bands. It’s nice to sit and be low key and then work your way into a more electric crowd. For the first hour the band usually plays a softer set and you can still talk. But, it doesn’t take long for the place to fill up. (All the kids who can’t fit in the basement head upstairs to check out what their options are.) The upstairs is still a younger crowd, but less obnoxious than the basement. The band is usually really entertaining and by 11pm everyone is dancing. If you’re in the mood to dance (not in a “Why is this weird guy rubbing all up on me and the people around us?” type of way, but actually groove to some good music), it’s a really fun time. The only negatives are that the house music between sets is pretty clubby and can sometimes be annoying by offsetting the classic rock or funk vibe the band creates. And by the time 11pm rolls around it becomes harder to make your way to the bar, but the bartenders are really nice and do their best. Every time I go, I have a great time. By the end of the night, my feet usually hurt from dancing, but that is my only real complaint about the upstairs. And there is no cover, which is great. You can also valet for around $5 to $8 dollars. The later you go, the longer the line is to get in, but it moves quickly and the wait is short. It’s definitely worth checking out, even just to see the place in its fancy Victorian splendor.
Good Little Go To…Not Mind-Blowing by ANY Stretch
Jayson M. Oct 30, 2012
Santa Monica nightlife sometimes reminds me of Boston. It’s never awful…it’s just…so utterly average. For those of you who haven’t experience escaping the milquetoast of Beantown, let me see what I can say without sounding snooty. First off, its gets ridiculously packed on weekends. There’s a “secret” entrance which is hardly secret at all considering how many people are there. Anyone who says it is hard to find probably has difficulty putting on their own shoes. If you go midweek it’s a nice little chill hangout with a good HH till 8pm with $3 beers. They also have regular food trucks in attendance during HH. Then you go around 9:30 on Friday, and they have removed all the stools to make room for the stampede of SM frat hounds….dah-fuq is going on around here? Sure, the music is good (actually the bands can be stellar) but this sceney crowd makes me want to torch the place. It’s definitely not decadent, but the drinks are solid. UCLA Greek party I could do without, so I do without Basement on the weekends. No harm, no foul.
College Grad Hotspot
Natalie M. Oct 15, 2012
I just graduated from UCLA in spring, and literally all of my friends who have graduated come here on a regular basis. Last time I went with a few friends, there were so many ex-UCLA students I felt like I was back in Westwood. Which is great for me! It's hard to find a real gathering spot now that we've all moved out of UCLA area, but this is definitely the place to go for post-grads. Lots of USC post-grads there too; not that I talked to them, but you could just tell ;). The venue itself is just awesome and beautiful; yes, it's annoying to wait in line outside, but that patio area is so pretty with all the lights hanging from the trees, and all your friends are in line anyway feeling chatty. When I went on a Friday night, I actually went straight to the upstairs area where they had a live band playing, which was really cool. It's awfully dark up there though, could barely make out the faces of the various people I knew that were unexpectedly present. Mid-level is nicely lit, there's some cozy chairs to chill in by the bar and I tricked some guy into thinking he couldn't sit with me because I had reserved the chairs for my boyfriend and I. Not sure if those chairs are actually available for reservation but evidently people will buy it. Downstairs is pretty sweet, but the guard at the top of the stairs will make you go alllll the way back around and outside in line to get back into the downstairs area if you leave it, so if you're enjoying yourself down there, don't leave til you want to go home. Overall, real fun!
Very cool and different, but can get crowded.
Sarah P. Oct 4, 2012
I first went to The Basement when it had only been opened 2 weeks and it was awesome. A total Speakeasy. Only a few people knew about it. I felt so cool when we walked by the dumpsters, to the kitchen and down the stairs, I felt I needed a password. Inside was different - the blackboards as walls was a nice treat - chalk provided as well. My friend and I even brought food in from another restaurant - totally fine. My drink was strong and the atmosphere was cozy. I was hooked. Then of course, people heard about it. And the best kept secret in Santa Monica was out. It went from being cozy to crowded, cool to average. The drinks were still strong, but took too long to get one. The bands were still good, but too loud. If you go early, you can still get a feel for how The Basement is supposed to be enjoyed. And maybe write a little message on the blackboard.
Cool bar...for Santa Monica
Paul F. Sep 4, 2012
I'm generally out on Santa Monica. Call me old fashioned, but when I'm at a bar, I don't need to see other guys wearing shorts. And even though there were a few shorts-offenders at Basement Tavern, for the most part it was respectable. If you get there after 10 and you're waiting. You get there after 11 and you're REALLY waiting. As you walk up to the old Victorian mansion, you're told by suited security to put your name on a list in the middle of the park. There, you're greeted by a 'Kayla is not impressed' impersonator who takes down your name. Depending on the line, the wait can be 5 minutes to an hour. Once they call you, you're handed a card, which you then hand to the security guy who directs you behind the mansion to the entrance of the Basement. There, you're met by ANOTHER security guy and wait in ANOTHER line until enough people leave so you can enter. Again, get there before 10 to avoid this. Once you're through, you walk downstairs (into a basement) where a packed house of 20 somethings are boozing, dancing to live classic rock, and drawing dirty doodles on the chalk boards. The bartenders are really friendly and the crowd was affable drunk - though by 1am that could change. It is Santa Monica. Mostly a cool place, but wouldn't necessarily go back.
If only it were still a secret
Chris M. Aug 8, 2012
The other reviewer is right, The Basement is no longer anything close to a secret but it is still a great place. Architecturally it feels like a speakeasy and has lots of nooks and crannies to try to find a seat. Best for groups of 4 or less if you actually want to sit, The Basement gets real crowded during weekends, but only later in the night I find. The lighting is mostly by candles outside the main bar area which can make for intimate conversations or just be too dark. The crowd is generally folks in their 20s and 30s but you will often find some older fellas sipping Scotch earlier in the night wishing they could still have a cigar and just watching the younger ladies roll in. Also in the Basement you will see a glassed-off section with a TV and some video games. If there is a private event upstairs at the Victorian, this area may be closed. This is where the grooms party that is having a wedding at the Victorian upstairs will hangout before the big event and sometimes it will be closed the whole night. The back entrance is definitely the way to go other than missing out on walking through the Victorian.
Too packed for my taste
Paula P. Aug 8, 2012
The Basement Tavern itself is a really cool looking spot; the lights outside in the tree are really cool looking and I love the white picket fence. You kind of feel like you're going to a house party but when you get inside it's totally different. I remember thinking that the venue had a lot of twists and turns and doorways and back doors... you could definitely get lost in that place but I'm sure in a clearer state-of-mind it's not so confusing. Anyway, the drinks were pretty good - I got a mojito - but a bit on the pricey side. I also noticed a lot of flannel and lot of guys wearing ray bans which gave it a bit of hipster vibe but there is nothing wrong with that. If you're a smoker, don't try lighting a cigarette on the patio. One of my friends started smoking and got yelled at by a bouncer who then proceeded to throw us out because my friend allegedly didn't put out his cigarette (even though he did...) so that was kind of annoying but at that point I was ready to leave anyway. The place was also really crowded when I went and it took FOREVER to order a drink. I'd like to go back on a less crowded night to get a better feel for the place because I thought the venue itself was really cool.
Main Street’s Best Kept Not-So-Secret Speakeasy
Daniel H. Aug 2, 2012
The Basement is one of my favorite places on Main Street in Santa Monica. Even though it’s a pretty well known fixture with the drinking crowds, I still feel giddy every time I walk through the garden, through the lobby of The Victorian, and down the stairs into the cellar where the prohibition-era Basement resides. Their cocktails are fantastic but to be honest run a bit on the expensive side. I usually just stick to a well drink or beer, and make sure to pregame before visiting. It’s a lot nicer to come during the week because the space doesn’t fill up, and I always enjoy the folk/bluegrass/soul/Irish music on offer during most nights. The weekends here I feel packed like a sardine, but it can be a pretty fun destination if you beat the line and want to meet some cute young Westsiders. Just a tip, if you come during the weekend, try going around the Victorian to the back entrance at the loading dock and there’s a second bouncer with a much shorter line.
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