The Iconic Idle Hour Bar Harks Back to the Dawn of SoCal Car Culture

Get your engine running!

If you’re driving down Vineland Avenue in North Hollywood—a strip dotted with a busy mix of eclectic and rundown commercial buildings—it is easy to miss. But take your foot off the pedal the next time you’re in the area to see a true relic: a gigantic barrel-shaped structure that was designated an LA historic-cultural monument in 2010. The landmark building, which operates as the Idle Hour bar/eatery, is a throwback to the dawning of LA’s car culture. 

Programmatic architecture bloomed in the 1940s as people began driving down the streets instead of walking, diminishing the value of signage and window displays. Business owners wanted instantly recognizable buildings that would attract the attention of motorists passing by. Idle Hour was built to resemble a whiskey barrel to lure thirsty workers on their “idle hour.” 

Photographer Dima Overtchenko lives nearby. “It was in March 2020. We were ordered to stay home, which for me meant my ‘blue hour’ (evening) photo walks. I went around the corner and snapped this when the roads were completely empty. You could stand in the middle of a major street like Vineland without worrying about oncoming traffic. The structure is symmetrical, so my instinct was to get it straight-on.”