Great Location, Big Patio, Big-Time Happy Hour and Super Service Make The Former Sangria an Instant Player in The South Bay Beach Cities Nightlife
Here’s how to have a successful bar.
1.) Be sure it’s in a great location with a built-in crowd.
2.) Hire a friendly staff that can smile even if the bar is packed in the early days of opening.
3.) If you’re in a place that was previously popular, don’t mess with its success.
4.) Be kind to locals.
5.) Have good management.
These are things that Sharkeez has always had, and are keys to its long-term success. In an area with tons of thirsty people and plenty of choices to quench a thirst, it’s essential. And the initial impressions on American Junkie, the “new” bar that’s opened in the former Sangria on the Hermosa Beach Pier are, well, a huge high-five cheers.
First of all, let’s talk management. The place kept the friendly Mike as manager. Everyone in the South Bay Beach Cities knows this smiling dude with the friendly disposition and ball cap, so there’s a “go-to” person if there’s any kind of problem. With Mike, you know it will get solved. (In fact, a friend had a credit card mishap when the bartender accidentally mixed it up with another patron, and Mike was right there to provide a solution. The card was gone but Mike offered a free dinner and drinks, poured beers for him and his girlfriend, and both were satisfied. Handled improperly, they would have been pissed.)
The management also knows how to draw in locals, and that is by treating them to Happy Hour. Even on one of the South Bay’s busiest days, Cinco de Mayo, it had Happy Hour going all day. That’s $3 beers. And all beers. That includes Stella, Longboard Lager and Guinness. Well-poured margaritas – I’m talking no shortage of tequila – were $6. No mix, either. And in 2012, Cinco de Mayo was on a Saturday. Needless to say, the place was packed and nearly every party-minded local (of which there are many here) were at the place.
The Happy Hours are solid. How about going until 9 p.m. On a Friday night! There’s also goldfish racing on Wednesdays. Gotta check that out, right!?
If a place is popular, don’t mess with success. The layout is essentially the same as before, but there is – finally! – a second big bar on the outside patio. When it was Sangria, there was a small portable bar just inside the door to the main bar. Manned by Gus, it was kind of cool, but totally inadequate to handle the patrons (Gus, a true Manhattan Beach surf “dude,” had a lot of loyal customers). The place was there for a decade, so everyone asked, why not put in a big, permanent bar? Mike said that was his contribution to the new place. (See, good management. But where’s Gus?)
Friendly staff? The place just opened but here are three personal examples that will last a while:
• I love Longboard Lager and when I saw the tap, immediately ordered one. Well, the keg was blown and since it was Cinco de Mayo and there were people crowding around the bar, I didn’t want to hold things up so I ordered a margarita. It was freshly made – I hate mixes – and, as previously mentioned, not short on tequila. It was $6 while beers were $3. When I returned, the Longboard was still out. The bartender somehow remembered me from a half hour earlier among the masses, and made me a margarita. “That’s on me because the Longboard is still out,” she said. Talk about getting on a customer’s good side, that’s the way to do it!
• Moving inside with several friends, I went to another bartender and started on Stella Artois. On a follow-up trip to the bar, I was ready to order but just got beat to the bar by a guy who threw down his credit card and did something that happens to me a lot – he ordered shots, beers and several drinks for a group. This would take forever. The bartender, whom my credit card receipt revealed to be Jerika and if you Google the word “adorable” she’s sure to appear first, sensed my long wait and stepped in to pour me a Stella before making all the other drinks. It was such a touching gesture, I felt like running around the corner to the jewelry store and buying her an engagement ring on the spot.
When I returned the next day, Jerika greeted me with a dimple-filled smile and these words: “Welcome back!” All my friends were elsewhere so I just settled into the corner of the bar. There’s been a problem with the kegs not pouring exactly right and producing slightly warm beer. So before refilling me, Jerika took a glass and filled it with ice water. When it was sufficiently cold, she got me another Longboard. I have no idea if this girl can make a drink, whether or not she’s a “mixologist” (today’s buzzword) but I do know this: She’s one heck of a bartender because she knows customer service. And I would much rather have that than someone twirling bottles and making the “perfect cocktail.”
• A friend found a seat at a busy table and flagged down a waitress. The waitress was overwhelmed with requests, yet she handled my friend’s order of tacos (which my friend reported to be outstanding, and quite the bargain at $8 for three) as if hardly anyone were in the place.
I chatted briefly with Mike about the name, which he said is based on it being a full American kind of place. You know sports junkies, right. Well, this is for American junkies. When I saw cans of Budweiser and tallboys of Natural Light with one wrapped in a freeway bag – what’s more American in a bar than that!? – I knew of what he spoke.
There are a few other American Junkie locations – Scottsdale among them – but not enough to be considered a chain. And that sits well with Beach Cities locals.
And if the way the place, the staff, the Happy Hours and the excellent management is year-round the way it was on super-busy Cinco de Mayo, then we have a new player in the busy, competitive Hermosa Beach nightlife scene.