Hermosa, Manhattan & Redondo Beach Drinking Landmarks
After personal experiences, consulting with several others – over drinks, of course – and running down memory lane, PubClub.com has assembled a list of the Top 10 iconic bars of all time in the South Bay Beach Cities.
This is the best of the best in Hermosa, Manhattan and Redondo Beach. This list went through many changes and placement adjustments, but this is what our team of South Bay experts – veterans of the bars – deemed to be the most worthy establishments.
They are the wildest, most fun, best pickup places and best hangouts in the history of the South Bay.
This is the first of many stories on historical drinking landmarks in the South Bay. Future articles will be on the Top 10 Sunday Bars and Best Current Bars, Top Bars With Speciality Drinks and whatever else we can think of to celebrate the rich history of nightlife in the Beach Cities.
The Top 10 List
1.). La Paz, Manhattan Beach
Probably the wildest of them all, this was a dark dive bar six days a week. But on the seventh, its upstairs patio was full of sunshine and every single person who was smart enough to get there before 3, Sundays at La Paz was a weekly ritual. It pretty much only served beer but that was enough to get people buzzed, often until well into Monday.
It was located where the upscale Strand House now sits, quite the contrast! Its prime time was from the 70s, thru the 80s and into the very early 90s.
2.) Beach Bum Burt’s, Redondo Beach
Located where the Cheesecake Factory is now, Beach Bum Burt’s was a nice and classy Hawaiian restaurant and bar. It had excellent coconut shrimp & mahi mahi.
But on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, the singles swarmed in and it turned into one of the South Bay’s all-time great pick-up bars. The roof opened up and there was a catwalk around the top where you could look down on the action, then go dive in it yourself.
Long-time locals fondly remember Beach Bum Burt’s bar. It was at its peak in the early mid 80s.
3). The Original Sharkeez, Manhattan Beach
To many, the original Sharkeez (where FishBar is now) was not just a great locals’ watering hole, it was a drinking landmark. Sharkeez had everything – great music, sports, those awesome surf videos, fantastic food and strong, creative drinks served in big plastic buckets.
Most importantly, it had the crowd. It was such a good-looking crowd, someone visiting from out of town stood at the door with his mouth open for several minutes and them remarked, “my gosh, it looks like a beer commercial in here.”
Yet it was better than any beer commercial could even create, a real-life one-stop-for-everything fun bar with Mexican tropical decor and a crowd that was all South Bay singles. In its time, Sharkeez was the #1 spot for Friday Happy Hour and Friday night, for sporting events and as a singles bar.
Sharkeez was at its best in the early to mid 2000s.
4). 12th St, Manhattan Beach
Soon after LaPaz went away – Sunsets never captured the same Sunday magic outside of AVP weekends – a local fun guy named Pat opened a bar on 12th Street at Highland. Right off the bat he put in Joe’s Band, the South Bay’s all-time party band, and the party was on again in the South Bay.
12th Street was the Sunday evening bar that turned into Sunday nights, a blur of dancing, drinking and hooking up with singles. Eventually, 12th Street became a tag-team partner of a bar that opened up right behind it, H2O. This awesome run f fun lasted pretty much through the 90s.
5). Red Onion, Redondo Beach
In its heyday, the Red Onion was the notorious singles party bar with locations throughout Southern California. The one in Redondo Beach had the reputation all over the city being the best of them all.
Locals went there for super cheap food and big drinks and used that as fuel to make sure the place lived up to every bit of its singles reputation. It must be noted that the Red Onion operators are the ones who created Sharkeez.
The 80s was the prime time for the Spread, er Red, Onion.
6). Tequila Willies, Manhattan Beach
Tequila Willies, located in the Manhattan Village Mall, was what the South Bay does not have not now– a must go-to Happy Hour Friday bar. There was no discussion about where to go then because everyone went to Tequila Willies every Friday.
It had a large bar with margaritas flowing out as fast as the bartenders could make them and a train running above the bar. There was a patio outside but the real action was inside by that big bar. The South Bay really needs a Tequila Willies again for those Friday Happy Hours.
It faced out and eventually disappeared – Islands burgers is there now – in the mid 90s.
7). Harry O’s, Manhattan Beach
This was Cisco’s, once owned by one of the Smothers Brothers, then became Brennans and, eventually one of the legendary nightclubs in the Beach Cities.
Harry O’s had bands – frequently it was Joe’s Band – crammed onto its tiny stage, a packed dance floor and singles would lean in and around that big rectangular bar. It was the bar of the LA Kings and visiting hockey players and was once even shown in Sports Illustrated.
This was the easiest pick-up bar in the history of the South Bay; the girls would tell the guys right up front whether or not they were interested and if they weren’t, there were plenty of other choices.
WIth bands like the M-80s and Pine Mountain Logs, it’s where everyone who did not get laid on the weekend went on Sunday nights, earning it the nickname of “The Last Chance Saloon.”
From its prime in the mid 90s to early 2000s, Harry O’s eventually became several other places and is now Sharkeez Manhattan.
8.). Sunsets/Beaches, Manhattan Beach
Eventually – over several decades – the owners of La Paz wanted to make money more than one day a week, so they went somewhat upscale and created a restaurant and bar called Sunsets. Later to be called Beaches (and, for old time’s sake, La Paz, and then back to Sunsets).
Anyway, the locals took over the downstairs bar and with the dish of a bartender named Trish dishing out wildly-strong Cadillac margaritas the place was suddenly one of the most packed places in town.
Friday nights were the best times on a weekly basis but the craziest times were during the Manhattan Open when the AVP was at its peak in the 90s and 2000s.
9). Shellback Tavern, Manhattan Beach
The dive just up from the pier still thrives today. “The Shell” is the off-the-beach-bar that brings in sweaty volleyball players who buy beers by the pitchers, and then the place gets hot and steamy at night as it’s swarmed by 20s and 30s South Bay singles.
There’s nothing much to it, just a good, kicked back bar serving drinks in a beach casual environment, making it a true South Bay classic.
10.) Chillers, Redondo Beach
Some locals still carry the scars from this bar. They would get hammered on those frozen drinks – the rum-heavy Passion Punch was a PubClub favorite – then attempt to bike or rollerblade home and get “party fouls.”
The large side patio was THE Sunday afternoon destination after 12th Street went away, and it stayed that way for many years until neighbors complained about the noise and an undesirable crowd began to take over from the locals.
In it’s prime, which was in the 90s, it was a prime place indeed. Nothing has made it in this location since, despite being in a prime place next to Ruby’s in the King Harbor parking lot.
Honorable Mention Best All-Times Bars
Australian Bistro, California Beach Rock ‘n Roll Sushi, Cassidy’s, C.J. Brett’s, Critters/North End, Ercoles, H2O, Orville & Wilbur’s, Pancho & Wongs (held the Miss Michelob Light bikini contests and had bands at night), Sharkeez Hermosa, Hennesseys Manhattan (dollar beer Thursday’s), Pancho & Wongs, Sangria (after AVP tournaments), Toe’s Tavern (especially when The Fox played), HBYC (Hermosa Beach Yacht Club, a classic dive still around today).
Current Honorable Mention Best Bar: Pancho’s
This bar has been around forever. The cantina is packed every weekend night with a rock-n-roll Hall of Fame series of musicians that make up the band – the sax player toured with Kenny Loggins, the bass player with Fleetwood Mac the drummer could be from any band from Styx to Alice Cooper.
Still More Classic Bars Of The Bygone Era
Cisco’s (dirty dancing night, then Brennan’s; co-owners were Clint Eastwood and the Smothers Brothers), The Flying Jib (60s & 70s one of the all-time wild ones in the South Bay; dirty dancing contest the ones got their clothes off the fastest won; where Body Glove is now located), First National Food & Beverage (where El Porto Liquor is now; locales called it the “First National Food & Drug Co,” and it was also Jimmer’s, and several other names), The Hole In The Wall, The Frigate (the place for stewardesses, where FishBar is now), The Strand Bar (right on The Strand at Rosecrans).