DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – The King Eddy Saloon, a dive bar adored by a mix of Skid Row regulars, Historic Core residents and Los Angeles history buffs, will soon have new owners and potentially a new vibe. The name, however, will remain the same.

Michael Leko and Will Shamlian, partners in Library Bar and Spring Street bar (as well as Pizzeria Urbano and Coffee Bar), are in escrow to buy the historic watering hole from the family that has owned it for decades. Leko and current King Eddy owner Dustin Croick confirmed the pending deal, which is slated to close for renovations in the coming months. The deal was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The new owners do not plan to significantly change the bar — Leko said a renovation will be geared toward bringing the more than 90-year-old watering hole up to code. He expects to close the bar for a few months and reopen it in early 2013.

“The place has been, not neglected, but left alone for a long number of years,” he said. “We’re going to do our best to try and to bring King Eddy’s back a little bit. We’re not changing the name, not changing anything. We’re certainly not changing the location.”

The King Eddy, which sits on the ground floor of the 120-year-old King Edward Hotel at 131 E. Fifth St., occupies a space that was a piano shop during Prohibition, when a speakeasy operated in the basement. Lovers of Los Angeles lore know the King Eddy from the pages of author John Fante, who referenced the saloon in his novel Ask the Dust. Fante and Charles Bukowski were known to drink there.

Today, the bar is known chiefly as the last Skid Row dive bar. It still opens at 6 a.m., and thanks to the longest operating liquor license in Los Angeles, the bar includes an indoor smoking area that is walled off behind Plexiglass. 

Croick said the decision to sell the bar stemmed in part from a recent change in ownership of the King Edward Hotel, which was purchased along with the neighboring Hotel Baltimore by Historic Core developer Izek Shomof. The new owner wanted Croick to invest in renovations and security and change operating hours. Instead, he opted to sell to Shamlian and Leko, who have a history with Shomof. Shomof owns the building that houses Spring Street bar.

“It might be grungy and dirty and old but that’s what we are and that’s the integrity of the place,” said Croick, whose grandfather bought the bar in the 1960s. “Changing that area will be great for Downtown, it’ll be great for Fifth and Los Angeles, but unfortunately the type of money that needs to be put in that place we couldn’t do it at this time.”

Contact Ryan Vaillancourt at ryan@downtownnews.com.