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Yee Mee Loo, Los Angeles, CA (bar)

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Name:yee mei lious or hee mee liou
Street:Inbetween Alameda and Broadway
City:los angeles

I would like information on Yee Mei Loos in downtown LA, Chinatown to be exact. It was a downstairs basement polynesian bar/chinese restaurant. They had the most wonderfully intoxicating drinks, I did alot of underage drinking there and was talking about it with my friend the other day. They had great pu puu platters too. The last time I was there was in the mid 80's. If anyone has been there please share details as mine are pretty fuzzy. Thanks

[ Edited by: Humuhumu - corrected the name of the location in the subject line - 2009-04-01 09:00 ]

The correct spelling is Yee Mee Loo and the “lounge” area was known as “Kwan Yin Temple”. The cocktail bar area was a dark dive-ish place we would frequent down in Chinatown back in the 80’s. To my friends and I it was home of the mysterious “blue drink” I recall thinking they tasted really great but I have a feeling if I gave it a try now it wouldn’t be so great an experience. They had an old antique Chinese style thing for the back bar (I assume this was the Temple in Kwan Yin?). Everything behind the bar looked like it had started leaning in an earthquake and stopped, we’d sit there transfixed looking at this portal to the orient, all the lamps, booze bottles and the setting before us.

Below is their amazing matchbook art with right to left captioned cartoon, there was always some debate whether this was intentional or a Chinese translation problem?

Interestingly the main portion of the back bar decor was saved and has a new lease on life behind the bar of a (new) uninspiring restaurant down in Glendale. But looking at it in it’s current environment is kind of sad, (I would never have recognized it) it painfully lacks without the cool depth of the original locale, all that layering with everything stained in nicotine, a dark bar room in Chinatown. The place is on Brand (I think), although I haven’t been there in a few years maybe it’s gone by now too?

My very best alohas,



Thanks so much for the update! I didn't realize anyone had responded to my inquiry... I do remember doing alot of underage drinking there though. Lots of fun times...Hope that bar is still in it's current home.


Bosko is like Johnny Cash....He's been everywhere, man!

It hurts me to see posts with images that have disappeared, so here is the classic matchbook Bosko mentions:

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the interior, it was at a time when one did not take such photos -partly because one believed these cool places would be around forever! The restaurant in Glendale that took over the Kwan Yin Temple (the backbar of the Yee Mee Loo) is gone now too, even though their cocktail menu was originally put together by Ted Haigh aka Dr.Cocktail. We do not know what happened to the Kwan Yin Temple.

But something else from the Yee Mee Loo lived on:

Just a couple of blocks up from the Tiki Ti up Sunset Blvd, the ingeniously authentic yet NEW Chinese styled Good Luck Bar...

hired the Yee Mee Loo's skinny old Chinese owner/bartender Richard (see match book interior above) to be its mixologist,

I had many a shot of my personal favorite, his Chinese Rose Whiskey, poured by him.

Last not least worthy a mention is the fact that their expertly designed retro matchbook is the work of no other than forefather of Urban archeology, now Taschen LA head editor, graphic designer Jim Heimann (note signature on back)

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2010-09-15 23:49 ]


So much good stuff!

A) I adore Bosko. I am always tickled by the casual way he pokes his head into a thread that seems like a totally hopeless reach for info, drops some condensed knowledge of the quality that only "I was there" can impart, and then drifts off back to whatever he was doing (in my head, when he pops into these threads, I imagine him leaning through a doorway, saying his piece without setting down his chisels, and leaving a smattering of wood chips in his wake). Bosko, I love you, and I thank you.

B) Sven, thanks oodles for the back story on the Good Luck matchbook! It's the treasure of my matchbook collection. I enjoy it more than the others precisely because it's modern. It's too easy for us to accept cruddy modern-day attempts at "retro style" with "ah, those were the days, they just can't do that kind of great quality anymore." It's not true, great quality can and does still occur, and the Good Luck's matchbook is a perfect little pocket-size reminder of that.


Good Luck has a well designed swizzle stick also.


Cool pics of the old Yee Mee match cover! I love the quip "Where you going pa?"
Seems like something Number One Son would ask Charlie Chan.....
The Good luck cover and swizzle stick are awesome too.
Haven't been there since it opened I'll have to swing by one of these days and grab me some of those souveniers.
Thanks for posting!

I went there in 87. Classic dive bar with no windows and burning incense.
You could get high just from the atmosphere.
They had a clock that ran backwards.
The Tidybowl was famous because nobody had a blue drink back then.
I would not dare to eat the food there.

(These are not my photos)

photos are by Ron Resnick

This is the Yee Mee Loo bar that was bought and transferred to a place called the Cinnabar in Glendale.

To keep the memory alive, they served the Yee Mee Loo (meaning "blue drink") Tidybowl. I don't know the ingredints. Probably a Blue Hawaiian,

Good digging, Unga: Exterior, interior, AND the Kwan Yin Temple - now this thread is pretty complete!

Hello all and wow, when I posted a here couple of years ago I thought I’d inadvertently killed another thread and I totally forgot about this until I just stumbled across it.

Humuhumu thank you so so much but you have a very romantic view of my life (aside from wood chips in my wake) my climbing out of the hammock like Pa Kettle would be much closer to reality.
Tom I have been most everywhere with in a 100 mile radius.
Sven great job, I was unaware my photo links had died.
Unga amazing pictures and I too wouldn’t dare to try the food.




[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2010-09-15 22:15 ]

Oh yes, it's the way of things.
I am glad they apparently used images from this thread at the funeral service, very moving. If our work here can serve such a noble purpose, it is the greatest pay off.

I saw and borrowed these pictures from Vintage Los Angeles on Facebook.


Well, you have to admit that the site looks MUCH better now than it did before. :(

I lived in Boyle Heights from 1986 to 1994 and used to go to Yee Mee Loo's. It always had an interesting mix of off duty cops, City Hall types and artists. We drank the blue drink and Richard the bartender was usually poring over some betting cheat sheet on the races. The same twenty songs played over and over from the wall mounted juke box. It was great. The restaurant had lousy food EXCEPT that it served really late, so you could go there and eat egg rolls after all the other places were closed.
It went out of business and some friends of mine, Mark Bautzer and Brett Witke bought the interior of the bar. They asked me if we could store it in my studio. So we got a bunch of volunteers together and a flatbed truck spent a Saturday taking it apart. Nothing had been removed or cleaned. Actually, I don't think it had been cleaned in a VERY long time. We dismantled the backbar, light fixtures, the bar, barstools. We even tried to remove the panelling (which was so caked with smoke and oil that it looked like Peking Duck and smelled like an ashtray!) but it broke apart. We were amazed to learn that the Juke box was a rental! They had been renting it for thirty years! so we didn't get that. We dragged everything out into the street, loaded it up.
We took the opportunity to go down into the basement, which was dark and dirty and filled with wooden packing crates with chinese markings, straight out of a Charlie Chan movie. The we found the door to the SUB BASEMENT, and this was VERY weird. A small, windowless room with a linoleum floor and old fluorescent lights. Solid color vinyl seating.The room had three doors, each one exited to a DIFFERENT address. Plus, there were cigarette burns on every surface, the seats, the floor, the side tables. It really felt like a shooting gallery or old opium den where the clients nodded out with lit cigarettes hanging from their fingers. It was probably built for smugglers back in the day so you could disappear from one establishment to another. Of course, no one had a camera.
We took the stuff back to my studio and basically reassembled it. The fun part was going out to places and hearing people lament the loss of Yee Mee Loo's and then inviting them back for a drink at the reassembled bar. It blew some minds. The racetrack guy who opened the restaurant in Glendale bought the whole thing a few months later. Then my studio stopped smelling like Yee Mee Loo's.


Awesome story, thanks for sharing it !! :)

All of you folks who used to eat at Yee Mee Loo's can now rest easy...
they passed the Health Dept Certification process...Phew!!


On 2009-03-29 19:56, bigbrotiki wrote:

....But something else from the Yee Mee Loo lived on:

Just a couple of blocks up from the Tiki Ti up Sunset Blvd, the ingeniously authentic yet NEW Chinese styled Good Luck Bar...

hired the Yee Mee Loo's skinny old Chinese owner/bartender Richard (see match book interior above) to be its mixologist,

I had many a shot of my personal favorite, his Chinese Rose Whiskey, poured by him...

I heard that Good Luck Bar's 20 year lease is ending this Oct. Renewing the lease will probably be cost prohibitive (thank goodness Tiki Ti owns their own building) so we have about 4 more months to frequent Good Luck.

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2014-05-26 09:46 ]