Old-timers remember the brawls. "There used to be big fights,” says Manuel, a regular who has been coming to La Cita to dance for 20 years. “But that doesn’t happen anymore."

Those who haven't been coming here quite so long recall a dark bar, unwelcoming to outsiders. "You know what it’s like in those old movies, when someone walks in and the record scratches?” asks Galo, who first set foot inside the downtown bar in 1993. "That’s what it was like walking in there.”

Read the rest of my feature on the urban paradise that is La Cita at L.A. Weekly.