When Liz Fischbach, a single mom with an artistic air and a penchant for rescuing cats, signed the lease at Lupita’s — a seedy watering hole at 1642 West Temple Street in Historic Filipinotown — her friends thought she’d finally lost it.
Fischbach, who’d lived and worked in Venice for 17 years before leaving her job and moving to HiFi, freely admits to have been in the throes of a midlife crisis when she signed the lease at the defunct saloon in 2009. She’d never operated a bar before, and Lupita’s, which Fischbach described as “notoriously dangerous,” hardly seemed like the best place to start. And as if its reputation weren’t enough, the place was a mess. The walls were rotting, the lights were dangling, and the ceiling was crumbling to the floor. Yet Fischbach persisted in her quixotic quest, undeterred.
“I found something about [the space] very appealing,” she said. “I don’t really know what. I guess I just love old and worn out things. Maybe it’s because I come from Las Vegas, where it’s all fake — all about facade.”
In March of 2010, after a year of research, remodeling and bureaucratic wrangling, Fischbach unveiled 1642, an inviting little craft beer and wine bar that bore little resemblance to its rowdy predecessor.
“The wood bar’s the only thing that’s original,” she said. “Except for the base. That had to be replaced.”
Fischbach wasn’t always into beer. But the offerings she found at the 2009 L.A. Beer Week Beer Festival impressed her. And since her bar space was limited, with only enough room for four taps and about a dozen different kinds of canned and bottled brews, Fischbach decided to serve a rotating selection of craft beer at 1642.
“The menu’s so small, it has to be good,” Fischbach said. “I want to keep people coming back, happy they found something new — something they haven’t had before.”
Among the special sips available at 1642 earlier this week were North Coast Le Merle Saison (evocative of the season, and available on tap), Lost Abbey Red Poppy (very well priced, and available by the bottle), and Caldera IPA (impossible to find, and found in a can). All three come with proper glassware.
So how does this former art gallery employee know what beer to buy and how to serve it?
“I’m a very research oriented person,“ Fischbach said.
While the last thirteen months have been successful for Fischbach, they’ve also been difficult. Even with a regular staff, she finds herself unwilling to release the reins. So whenever she isn’t at home caring for her young son, she’s working at 1642.
“I’m so hands-on,” Fischbach said. “I’m the bouncer and the bartender — I do it all.”
But despite some ups and downs, and the inevitable fatigue that goes along with working until 2 a.m. five nights a week, Fischbach has no regrets. Ultimately it was her sense of adventure that led her to open a respectable bar in a somewhat questionable block, and it’s the sense of adventure that drives her — and her business — forward.
“What I love most about this place is the people,” Fischbach said. “There’s that same sense of adventure with everyone who walks through the door. First they have to figure out we’re here. Then they have to come in. I love that.”
Even if 1642 takes you out of your comfort zone, once you’re inside, you can’t help but feel at home.