By Stephanie Raygoza
The SandBar in Long Beach gained a reputation long before its doors opened on April 7. The rumors of the supposed bikini bar ran rampant throughout Long Beach in the months leading up to its unveiling, and now the only thing shockingly revealing about the bar is that it delivers even lower happy-hour pricing than its predecessor without stripping away from its dedication to serving the greater community.
The owners, four men with rich backgrounds in business management and entertainment expertise, are venturing into their first bar with great ambitions and open minds. Brothers Ted and Tom Nucum, their father, Lou, and general manager, Ed Pasalle, all teamed up to take over the establishment that was once Puka Bar and created a renovated sports bar where regulars can still feel welcome and youth can take in the nightly DJ mixes.
“What really attracted me to the Puka Bar was its actual location. I have a lot of friends that live in the area, and I’ve been in the bar business since 2001,” Pasalle said. “We just want to be that local watering hole, but then in an instant I’ve been having a lot of the old regulars coming in. Some of them probably came in only once a week or every other week, and now we’ve been seeing them every day or every other day.”
Lasalle, former head bartender for Mai Tai Bar, has seen many different demographics come into Mai Tai and through the years has developed a keen eye for what works and what doesn’t in the bar industry. As a result, SandBar offers lower drink prices and happy hour twice a day and shows all major sporting events.
In turn, residents have stopped by to show support for the Signal Hill residents and even expressed the fact that they feel safe and like what they’ve done with the place.
“We outsource our own security. We make them look tasteful– we make them wear suits. We want to have that professional outlook on our establishment,” Lasalle said. “Our main goal is to make sure that our patrons have a good time.”
While much of the décor within the location stayed the same to tie in with the bar’s namesake, the addition of three more TVs to cater to different sporting events and a focus on local and renowned DJs is what sets it apart from the Puka Bar days.
With a catering to different demographics at the forefront of the business, SandBar still aims to keep the locals and regulars in mind venturing not too far from what gives the bar its homely feel and down-to-earth ambiance.
“I didn’t want to label us as just being catering to one demographic,” Lasalle said. “We want everyone to just come and enjoy.”
Opting for a soft opening, the owners are now taking the time to get to know the locals who live around the area and watching the kinds of people that go into the bar. Most of the sources of entertainment will be DJs, as Lasalle has grown up with them and knows that they can change a genre and cater to a crowd.
“One thing also, we’re in the Wrigs (Wrigley), right? So we’re not downtown, we’re not Hollywood, so why am I going to charge expensive prices on liquor? We’re in a residential area,” Lasalle said.
Stemming from this mindset is a happy-hour menu created by Lasalle that is expected to please the Regular Joe stopping by for a beer or the group of ladies coming in for some drinks on a Friday night. With $2 domestic pints, $3 well drinks and $4 specialty drinks from 4pm to 7 pm and 8pm to 11pm, SandBar’s happy-hour specials offer the traditional Mai Tai, specialty martinis such as their key lime pie, and specialty shots like their White Gummy Bear.
“We have a strawberry margarita that’s on our specialty drinks menu that is made out of vodka, simple syrup and freshly muddled strawberries,” Lasalle said.
“Every single drink is hand-muddled. A lot of the locals love our beer prices,” added Tom Nucum.
The newly minted bar owners also pride themselves in providing a safe and clean establishment for patrons by keeping the staff much later for clean-up and hiring a security company that specializes in how to defuse a situation and administer First-Aid care.
“It goes back to us implementing firm and strict rules as far as dress code, and it goes back to our security. No hoodies, no baseball caps after 9pm, no athletic apparel,” Nucum said. “Just to keep the community safe, the patrons safe and the staff. Patrons and staff are our number-one priority.”
As the team works through kinks and cements their status in the community, they hope to open up a kitchen offering appetizers and vegan options since many people are gravitating toward that lifestyle. Themed nights will also be underway, such as: Taco Tuesday nights, during which they would partner up with different taco trucks; music genre-themed nights such as ’80s, reggae and others; and sports nights such as the Lakers playoffs.
“We also want to give back to the community, and that’s just something that I think is really strong altogether. We want to get the community involved,” Nucum said. The team has already thrown a nonprofit fundraiser for cystic fibrosis and hopes to participate in other fundraisers for different causes aimed at promoting awareness.
SandBar is already gaining attention through its Facebook and Twitter profiles, but much of its success now lies in the hands of its community and patrons.
“We like to interact with our guests and sit down next to them. We’re very approachable,” Lasalle said. “We want to be welcomed into the community and be part of the community.”
SandBar may be open from 4pm to 2am daily, however Lasalle’s vision for the reputation of the bar pays homage to a more famous bar-based TV show.
“As long as we open our doors, we’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Lasalle said. “During the day we’re going to be like Cheers.”