COMFORTABLE, PERSONAL, NEIGHBOR | Ventura’s Garage Bar | Music

ON THE PICTURE : David Rhodes took over ownership of the Garage Bar in 2021.Photo courtesy of David Rhodes

by Mike Nelson

The garage bar
1091 Scandia Ave, Ventura

The first rule of owning a bar, says the Garage Bar owner, is to make sure it’s a safe and comfortable place for the community.

“A bar is the community room,” says Dave Rhodes, who since 2021 owns and operates this longtime East Ventura establishment that has gone through several owners and renovations, but has become in the last year, indeed, a haven of peace for the inhabitants.

“It’s where people go to talk to their neighbors about what’s going on,” Rhodes continues, “of ideas, a place of life and excitement.” With a smile, he adds, “governments and revolutions are formed in bars.”

Local connection

After a thorough renovation, the Garage Bar now offers a brighter and cleaner atmosphere. Photo courtesy of David Rhodes

Not that those who gather at the Garage Bar are there to overthrow the powers that be or create their own republic. They’re just looking to grab a drink, listen to live local music, play darts or trivia, and find a comforting neighborhood port in the storm of life.

Which brings us to the second rule of owning a bar: local connection.

“To me, owning a bar is all about our community and bringing people together,” says Rhodes, who grew up in Oxnard, attended Channel Islands High School and takes pride in serving craft beers and spirits produced and created locally as well as host local bands performing live on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We have a lady who lives across the street, she’s 105, and she comes over once a week, has a beer, and the other night she was out dancing with the reggae band. And we have developed good relationships with local businesses, like Karina’s [Mexican Restaurant] next door that provides us with food.

That community connection, he adds, is especially important on the east end of Ventura, a sometimes overlooked part of town. “I don’t try to attract people from downtown, because they have their own good stuff,” Rhodes says. “I want people to be able to ride their bikes to come here, a place where their neighbors come.” And that brings us to the third and perhaps most important rule of bar ownership: the personal touch.

“It’s saying hello when people come in and goodbye when they leave,” Rhodes explains. “It’s looking people in the eye and shaking their hands. It’s letting them know that you care about them, that they are important to you.

“All my professional experiences,” continues the 51-year-old former musician-turned-chef-turned-owner, “have taught me that offering a personal touch makes the difference in creating and retaining happy customers. And so far, we we’re doing very well.”

A new garage

In some ways, the success is a bit surprising given that, in his youth, Rhodes was not at all sure what he wanted to do with his life. “In fact, he laughs, I was jealous of my classmates who had an idea of ​​what they wanted to do with their lives.”

He therefore became a musician, then learned cooking and catering by frequenting Le Cordon Bleu, and worked for several great chefs in restaurants in Los Angeles, Hawaii, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

“And, you know, I’m glad now that I’ve taken all those paths, because I’ve learned so many lessons from my mentors and from my experiences. As a chef working in kitchens and restaurants, some with bars and some not, I have an idea of ​​what they can and cannot do. And that made me want to own a bar.

In fact, Rhodes first tried to buy The Garage Bar six years ago, but the price was too high. “After the pandemic, however, the price went down, I made a new offer, it was accepted, and in February 2021 the escrow was closed.”

By then, the pandemic had forced the Garage Bar to close, “and it was a little nerve-wracking,” he says, “not knowing if the virus would go away or get three times worse. And it took forever to get inspections and permits because government offices were closed. But the challenges came with opportunities.

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Pool table at the Garage Bar. Photo courtesy of David Rhodes

With support from family and friends, Rhodes dove into her plans, including an ambitious renovation of the 2,500 square foot space that officially reopened in late July 2021, following a “soft opening” over the weekend. end of July 4th. What customers have found and appreciated today is a cleaner, brighter look and feel – with ‘toilets that actually work’, he smiles – and looking nothing like the operation that featured once, among its “attractions”, bras hung above the bar. .

Instead, The Garage Bar now offers a wide variety of music, including live local bands on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as “Soul Sundays” and “Taco and Trivia Tuesdays”, with live local DJs. . “We try to showcase everything local,” says Rhodes, including craft cocktails and beers from local producers, locally created artwork and “probably 90%” of his live music from Ventura County. .

Almost every genre of music – from pop and country to soul and reggae – is featured, “except hardcore punk rock”. A pool table and multiple dart boards, along with a good-sized dance floor and outdoor patio, allow guests to be as entertained or relaxed as they please.

“We’re not the same as before,” Rhodes points out, noting that “almost every day, customers from years ago – some who swore they’d never come back – come in and say, ‘Wow. , look at this place, it’s amazing.’ We welcome people here to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other life milestones, even some company parties.

In the 13 months since reopening under Rhodes’ ownership, The Garage Bar has exceeded its sales forecast, although Rhodes admits with a smile that “it’s constantly bob and weave, learning what works and what doesn’t.” doesn’t work, determining the flow – and I’m getting better After just over a year of opening, our hard work is paying off.

Rhodes is open, he adds, to all ideas and innovations, “as long as they pass through the filter of ‘It’s good for the community’. Because that’s who we serve. At the end of the day, we want to be good neighbors, bring people together, so why not do it over some awesome drinks? »

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