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Highland Park

With Over 100 Non-Alcoholic Beverages and 3,000 Rare Records, ‘De La Playa’ Opens In Highland Park

“There are enough alcoholic bars in the neighborhood; we just wanted to create an alternative space for people to listen to music and chill,” says one of the three co-owners who are also respected local D.J.s. born and raised in L.A.

Highland Park, a neighborhood that has become the epicenter for gentrification in Los Angeles, continues to see a surge of upscale businesses on Figueroa Street and York Boulevard. Yet amidst this trend, a new hybrid space named De La Playa stands out as a beacon of inclusivity and accessibility; a rarity in the area.

“People ask me: ‘Is this going to be a record or bottle shop?’” says John David Preap, aka “Bles,” one of De La Playa’s three co-founders. “I always answer, ‘This is a community space.’”

Bles is a first-generation Cambodian-American raised in the Harbor Area. He says the non-alcoholic concept of this hybrid record-bottle shop came naturally to him as the beverage director for Melody Lounge in Chinatown, where he also deejays.

The non-alcoholic refrigerated section at De La Playa. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
The non-alcoholic refrigerated section at De La Playa. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
The non-alcoholic wine selection at De La Playa.
The non-alcoholic wine selection at De La Playa. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
The tropical vibe inside De La Playa.
The tropical vibe inside De La Playa. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

During De La Playa’s grand opening party this past Sunday afternoon, hundreds came out to support the project, which was co-opened by Preap and his two homies, Diego “Fuego” Guerrero, a first-generation Mexican American raised in Long Beach, and Jon Paul Lourenço, a.k.a., “Soulchild Seb,” who was also raised in Long Beach to parents from Portugal’s Azores autonomous islands. Both are prominent D.J.s in their own right. 

During the event, guest D.J.s spun vinyl all day long. The fuzzy vallenato was audible a block away. Many enjoyed the freshly shaken non-alcoholic cocktails made to order by Bar Non, a pop-up also launched by Preap and Guerrero. 

The menu ranged from a cocktail made with non-alcoholic rum, ube, cinnamon, maple, and black walnut to a spin on a Paloma finished with hopped grapefruit bitters. Each cocktail was $14, and the plan is to offer these cocktails every weekend, with tunes by guest D.J.s out on the patio. Food pop-ups will also be invited to vend in the space. 

Vibes from opening day at De La Playa.
Vibes from opening day at De La Playa. Photo courtesy of Alejandra Díaz and Jon Paul Lourenço.
Bar Non making non-alcoholic freshly made cocktails. Photo courtesy of Alejandra Díaz and Jon Paul Lourenço.
Vibes inside De La Playa on opening day.
Vibes inside De La Playa on opening day. Photo courtesy of Alejandra Díaz and Jon Paul Lourenço.
Customers dancing at De La Playa. Photo courtesy of Alejandra Díaz and Jon Paul Lourenço.

Customers can also buy any of their zero-proof bottles or beers and share them with friends at the space.

De La Playa is an ode to the three co-founders' roots in Long Beach and the Harbor area, along with the tropical aesthetic the shop achieves through the many plants that adorn the space and a jungle–minded interior design. 

Guerrero and Seb designed most of the space. It’s second nature for Guerrero since, in his other job, he is an associate civil engineer for L.A. County.  

The opening of De La Playa as a sober community space comes at a critical time in Highland Park. Residents and the current Neighborhood Council President oppose further alcohol permits being issued in the bar-saturated area, citing that it contributes to further gentrification. 

“Community, tropical, and coastal vibes…. for all,” says Guerrero. “We get in where we fit in.”     

De La Playa currently offers more than 100 non-alcoholic beverages, including Greek and Italian-style amaros, IPAs, de-alcoholized wines, and more. 

“There are enough alcoholic bars in the neighborhood; we just wanted to create an alternative space for people to listen to music and chill,” Preap tells L.A. TACO.

The for-sale vinyl selection promises to center “quality over quantity,” according to Lourenço. The three musically-obsessed DJs are curating their selection in addition to working with people across the world. 

Their Brazilian section is curated by someone from São Paulo, their Venezuelan selection is curated by someone from Venezuela, and their hard-to-find Japanese selection is curated by someone from Japan.

“This is how we can get the best stuff, by working with people from around the world,” says Lourenço. 

The art on the walls will also be changing, as the owners are working with local photographers and artists.

“At some point, we considered applying for a beer and wine license, but that whole process is so gnarly,” Lourenço continues. “Opening a space like that has so many barriers, and we don’t have resources like that.” 

“We’ve done all the research and work ourselves, and we’re just getting started,” Guerrero says. 

“Community, tropical, and coastal vibes…. for all,” says Guerrero. “We get in where we fit in.”     

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