The past year has been a busy one for the downtown nightlife scene. With a number of new locations opening their doors on The Promenade and Pine Ave, options for drinking, dancing and escaping the troubles of everyday life are increasing steadily.
Ron Hodges, owner of Shannon’s on Pine, is one of many well-established business owners expanding their properties downtown. After purchasing the building that hosts Shannon’s on the corner of Pine and Broadway in 2016, Hodges is in the process of opening a new restaurant and building a speakeasy-style bar within the same property.
Shannon’s general manager, Sean Flynn, said he’s excited about the new businesses cropping up around their multi-venue complex. “This is what Long Beach is all about: having a good time, being safe, having fun and being able to enjoy yourself no matter what day of the week it is,” Flynn said. “Our objective is to always have something going on.”
As the downtown nightlife scene continues to grow, the Shannon’s team is making moves towards shaping the scene in the form of a new business alliance, the Downtown Entertainment District Association. “The association itself is just [a way] to organize and put a singular set of goals together, so that we can all benefit. If our neighbors do well, then we’re going to do well,” Flynn said. “We want to help control what’s coming down here and help drive people down here.”
Across the street, another established player in the downtown entertainment scene is expanding his reach. Chris Krajacic, owner of the Pier 76 Fish Grill, recently opened his newest venture, a spacious bar called The Harbor. With skee ball, darts and a pool table, The Harbor offers plenty of activities to keep guests entertained. “We wanted to create an environment that was a real, true, social gathering,” Krajacic explained. The name is a nod to a hobby he shares with his brother, who co-owns the bar. The two brothers enjoy sailing and have often embarked on long trips together. “A harbor is a place that you always return to,” Krajacic said. “You roll in, and the first thing you want to do is go get a beer.”
As an entrepreneur, Krajacic has found his own haven in downtown. “There’s not this huge competition down here, it’s more of a collaborative business environment,” he said. “If you are somebody looking to open up a business, it’s a very supportive community.”
Eric Johnson, owner of several ventures across the city, also added a new location to his portfolio. The Ordinarie, a take on the traditional American tavern with a modern twist, recently filled the space that once hosted the Blue Cafe on The Promenade. The concept of the bar was the brainchild of Johnson’s long-time staffer and Ordinarie co-owner Christy Caldwell.
“I’ve been living in the states for 20 years, and I’ve always enjoyed and loved going to old school American taverns,” Caldwell, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland more than 20 years ago, told the Business Journal. Eric Johnson, Caldwell’s former boss at the Auld Dubliner, was convinced, but wanted to wait for the right time to expand in downtown. “Downtown can have a very strong daytime population, but at nighttime it was lacking,” Johnson said. “Over the last four years, the last six years, that’s changed dramatically.” When he heard about a new student housing project that the California State University, Long Beach was working on, he thought it was finally the right time to make a move. “That really signaled to us that downtown was ready,” Johnson said.
New residential developments have been a beacon of hope for some of downtown’s nightlife staples. “Business has been good,” Jeff Osborn, general manager at The Federal Bar, wrote in an e-mail. In addition to The Federal’s main restaurant and the live music club, The Federal Underground, the venue offers guests a speakeasy-style experience at The Parlour, where guests can enjoy craft cocktails prepared by experienced mixologists after requesting a password to enter through the company’s website.
“We’re looking forward to 2019 [and] 2020 when the new high-density apartment buildings and condos begin to open and fill up with new residents,” Osborn said. Eventually, Osborn said he’s hoping “for more residents and businesses to open and for downtown to become a destination spot similar to the Gas Lamp [Quarter] in San Diego.”
Next door, at the Sevilla Cafe and Nightclub, Director of Marketing Holly Losey expressed an equally positive outlook on the future of downtown nightlife. The chain of clubs and cafes has locations in San Diego, Riverside and Downtown Long Beach, where they’ve been in business for more than 10 years. “Long Beach is very unique in that it caters to both locals and tourists alike,” Losey pointed out. At the Sevilla Café, guests can enjoy tapas and live performances every day of the week, while the adjacent nightclub offers theme nights focused around Latin music, from banda to reggaetón. “Our business has been doing really well, both with the restaurant and the nightclub, and we love to see downtown growing with us,” Losey said.