Memories & Moments Of A Top South Bay Watering Hole
PubClub.com is looking back at the best bars in the history of the South Bay. This one examines the original Sharkeez in Manhattan Beach. It is written by long-time local Kevin Wilkerson, one of the original Sharkeez patrons.
All good things must come to an end.
And in this case, one good thing did indeed end, but yet can also continue. Nearly 18 years to the day after first presenting itself to the South Bay, Sharkeez Manhattan Beach moved up the street to what at the time was Harry O’s.
But the original building at 3801 Highland Ave. – now home to the hugely popular restaurant/bar FishBar – leaves behind a legacy of memories for those of us who spent so much time in it thru the 90s to the mid-2000s.
I first learned of Sharkeez when I drove past it one evening. The building had always been a fish restaurant called The Pelican. I had never been inside. But seemingly overnight, the blue wood exterior had been painted a bright yellow.
That Distinctive Yellow Building
My parents were visiting when I saw this for the first time and my mom nearly came out the car seat: “Oh, who would paint that building YELLOW!?”
As we passed, I noticed my neighbor, Surfer Mike, was inside. Later that night, I heard Surfer Mike stumble back to his apartment (he lived behind me just a few blocks from Sharkeez). He was bumping into objects and mumbling things I could not understand.
The next night, at about the same time, Surfer Mike repeated the act. Both times, he was apparently attempting to announce to everyone that we had a great new addition to the neighborhood. But about all I could make out was “new bar. Awesome. Sharkeez!!!”
It did not take long after I put my parents back on a plane that I first experienced Sharkeez with the neighbors. Surfer Mike – a veteran of the place by now – ordered some drink called a Shark Attack, and it came in a big plastic bucket with big straws and plastic sharks. “I like this place already,” I commented to myself.
After a few sips, I began to get a pretty good buzz. Just as I was thinking, “man, a few days with my parents and I’m out of drinking shape,” neighbor Brent nearly fell off his stool. He caught himself and, laughing, said, “Man, these drinks are strong!”
Whew, I thought to myself, it’s not just me!
Sharkeez quickly became a regular stop for us in the neighborhood. We would go there to hang out, drink, watch sports or even stare at the surfing videos. Sharkeez was the first bar I know of that showed surfing videos on its TV screens.
The place was cheap and it was fun. One neighbor, “Big Howard,” put a $20 bill up in the framework of the thatched roof over the bar because, he said, “No matter what my financial situation might be in the future, I know that I’ll always have $20 at Sharkeez.”
We also went there to eat because the food – especially the fish and tri-tip – was (and still is, by the way) excellent. The menu was painted on a giant wood cutout of a fish above the bar. It was, frankly, kind of sad for us all when that wooden fish was replaced by real menus.
At one time, there was a fish tank by the ramp toward the bathrooms. The staff was great. It had young, fun and attractive bartenders. The owner Greg Newman as well as his dad Ron (Greg actually worked the bar in the early days) were always around, talking with us and asking our opinions of what we thought of the food, the drinks, the atmosphere, etc.
Because of all this, Sharkeez became the neighborhood “go-to” place for everything, including business meetings. Many great ideas were conceived in Sharkeez, including what you are reading now. PubClub.com was created from thoughts written on a Sharkeez napkin between myself and some very creative friends.
The Newmans also said that it was us locals who kept the place in business and that locals always took priority.
That’s why I’ve never had to worry about getting into Sharkeez, even the super popular one in Hermosa Beach. (Greg once saw me standing in line there, pulled me out of it and said, “What are YOU doing in line?” He then went to the doorman, pointed to me and said, “He never waits to get in here.” That attitude is a key reason Sharkeez has thrived while so many other bars in the South Bay have failed.)
It did not take long for the rest of El Porto, then Manhattan Beach and eventually the entire South Bay, to discover Sharkeez. There was no Pier Plaza at the time – Hermosa was mostly a collection of near-biker bars, in particular a place called Pier 52 – and Sharkeez was the prime party place for the entire area.
Fridays were especially ripe. For a while, it was the best singles bar I’ve ever seen in the South Bay. There wasn’t a date or a couple in the whole place, and everyone knew it. And I’ll leave it at that, too!
The wildest time without question in Sharkeez – and there were many – was the night Arizona won the men’s NCAA basketball championship. The place was packed with “Zonies,” and since Arizona’s collegiate titles consisted mainly of women’s softball, the possibility of the coveted hoopsters winning one was a particularly compelling occasion for the local alumni.
After the Wildcats edged Kentucky to indeed win the title, the Sharkeez staff began removing all the tables. Then Greg Newman got on the microphone and said, “We’re about to turn on the music. I want you to celebrate put please, don’t destroy the place!”
Well that ol’ building must be stronger than it looks because it was still standing at the end of the night. Though it may have been touch-and-go a few times.
That night is just one reason the original Sharkeez location will go down as one of the best bars in South Bay history.
COMMENTS FROM THE SHARKEEZ BAR STOOL
• “It’s where I met one of my favorite people – YOU!!”
– Holly, Redondo Beach
“Had the PubClubette photo shoot on the bar….and some great margaritas!”
– PubClubette Rosie
“My launch party was there for the Latitudes & Attitudes TV Show. That was a special night!”
– The Blonde
“My best memory? That’s a hard one. Maybe when I left my phone in the DJ’s tip jar!”
– The Blonde
“I might have to get management approval to tell all of my stories!”
– MB Resident (name withheld. For now)
“Give a big kiss to the floor, a view we all saw many nights face down after a few pitchers of margis.”
– Jim, a Sharkeez MB original (and frequent) customer
• Top 10 All-Time Manhattan Beach Bars