How does a bar or saloon earn the distinction of being historic? In some cases, their buildings were built decades ago, but they have been preserved and repurposed for new generations. Sometimes, the original owners found themselves on the wrong side of the law when “intoxicating spirits” were declared illegal. Other saloons and lounges honor once-loved traditions of an earlier age. The following gathering spots serve up a healthy dose of history, along with a cocktail or two.
The Blue Beet
107 21st Place
Newport Beach, CA 92663
www.thebluebeet.comThe Blue Beet’s history is, in many ways, more colorful than the drinks they serve. According to an article by Judge Robert Garner, Henry Stark first opened the saloon in 1912 and, even when Prohibition threatened owners, he stayed open. Originally known as “Stark’s,” Sid Soffer bought the place in the mid-1960s, rechristening it “Sid’s Blue Beet.” As a Daily Pilot article by Sarah Peters points out, a fire gutted the building in 1986, requiring the interior to be rebuilt. As for Mr. Soffer, he reportedly left California for Las Vegas over building code violations, which explains why the words “Sid Ain’t Here..Don’t Ask” are painted over the doorway.
The Exhibition Room
1117 E. Wardlow Road
Long Beach, CA 90807
www.theexhibitionroom.comThe National Prohibition Act figures prominently in the histories of many OC bars, especially the Exhibition Room in Long Beach. A combination saloon/cocktail museum, this innovative hangout honors the speakeasies that sprang up during those dry Prohibition years. According to their website, saloon owner Dennis McCarthy kept up an illegal alcohol trade in Long Beach while the 18th Amendment was in effect. Hidden inside Roxanne’s cocktail lounge, the Exhibition Room pays tribute to that era, requiring guests to supply a password before entering the speakeasy through a phone booth.
186 N. Atchison St.
Orange, CA 92866
www.streamlinerloungeorange.comLocated in the historic Santa Fe Depot in Orange, California, the Streamliner Lounge honors its railroad roots. Constructed in 1938, the depot was idle for a time after the Santa Fe Railroad suspended passenger service. These days, Ruby’s Diner and the Streamliner Lounge operate side-by-side in the depot, each sporting memorabilia and architecture honoring the glory days of railroad travel. It’s not uncommon for Metrolink passengers to stop at Orange for a burger, beer and a taste of California history before heading home.
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The Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Highway
Long Beach, CA 90802
www.queenmary.comNestled inside the legendary Queen Mary, the Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge features original artwork above the bar and 1930s décor and fixtures. Embarking on her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936, the Queen Mary started as a passenger ship but during World War II, she became a troop transport nicknamed the “Grey Ghost.” This legendary sailing vessel has been moored in Long Beach for nearly 50 years, serving as a floating hotel and entertainment center. You no longer need a First Class ticket to enjoy the signature drinks in the Observation Bar, just the desire to get out and have some fun.
136 E. Commonwealth Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832
www.hopscotchtavern.comLocated in the historic Pacific Electric Railway Station, Hopscotch Tavern brings to mind the early days of passenger rail service. Though the station closed in 1938, the fixtures, most notably a bar made from reclaimed whiskey barrels, set a nostalgic tone for the place. As for libations, Hopscotch offers 140 varieties of whiskey, a cigar patio and handcrafted cocktails.
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