Up next: The Buccaneer Lounge (Sierra Madre, CA)
“Sierra Madre's Original Watering Hole” is a popular neighborhood bar serving up great drinks at the best prices. The establishment features a pool table, darts, Touch Tunes, five TVs — including a 75-inch screen.
Greetings from The Buccaneer Lounge in the small, foothill community of Sierra Madre, CA. Our little pub has been in town for 61 years and our family has owned it for the last 31. We don't have a kitchen to serve food and, because of that, Los Angeles County Health and the State of California have mandated us closed for an entire year.
"The Buc", as locals refer to it, is known as "Sierra Madre's Original Watering Hole." It is beloved by the town and patronized by all walks of life. We have one dartboard, one pool table, live music, a jukebox and a large picture window in the front with a view of the mountains. We are extremely proud of the clean, comfortable space and great cocktails we provide to our patrons. We have consistently good reviews and are awarded each year with "Best Dive Bar" honors in local papers. The walls are adorned with elaborate pirate paintings created in the 60's by Frank Bowers, a set painter in Hollywood, and are popular with tiki-art enthusiasts. Several movies have been filmed in the bar over the years and it’s not uncommon for busses of various fan groups to make stops at the bar.
My dad had been a Sierra Madre fireman and it was his dream to someday own this legendary establishment. My parents bought it in 1990 and my dad passed away 8 years later. Since then, my mom, Gerri, has run the bar on her own. She has lovingly maintained it all these years and has a three-decade long reputation for being one of the most generous businesses in town, always donating to community and civic organizations. At 78, she is still the hardest worker I know, rarely missing a morning's work at the bar despite two life-threatening battles with cancer. In the past few years, I have taken on the job of marketing the business on social media and coordinating special days there like band nights, karaoke, and holiday celebrations.
On March 15th of last year, we closed midday, anxious to comply with the governor's orders and to do the right thing to protect our City. There were tears as we closed the blinds thinking we would be closed for a whole 14 days to flatten the curve as they said. In April, we scurried to paint, polish and make some improvements to the bar. In May when we still weren't open, we found it necessary to replace all of our inventory that had expired. At that time, we were allowed to open with food trucks on our patio but there were so many restrictions placed on doing so, such as each drink being sold with a “bonafide meal” and all transactions run through our register, that we struggled with how to make enough profit to be able to pay our employees. In June, we held a community fundraiser with local restaurants volunteering to make and package our famous chili recipe for a drive-through sales event. In late June, the governor gave orders that bars could open with distancing measures in place. We spent a week and great personal expense to set up a patio and secure rentals to accommodate the distancing measures. The health department representative praised our efforts and, although we were exhausted, we were thrilled to finally be able to open.
The governor shut bars down two and a half days later. In those few days, we had no more than 10 patrons in at a time with the community understandably still hesitant to venture out. We were more devastated by this closure than the first because we had worked so hard and spent so much money on reopening.
Following this second closure, we were forbidden from operating in any capacity, although wineries and breweries were given opportunities. LA County took away our ability to fundraise with food again, to sell to-go drinks, to open on our patio with a food vendor…all lifelines were removed. Our City met with health officials on our behalf to negotiate some means of survival for us. They said that the only thing they'd allow us to do is sell manufacturer-sealed alcohol to-go. This concession did not work for us as we are next door to a liquor store and bars' wholesale is the same as retail so we could not profit from this. Realizing we had to do something, in the months leading up to the holidays, we invested in a new line of Buc merchandise (t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.) There was overwhelming support from our community, however that investment did not prove to profit as much as we had needed it to. Throughout the past year, we have made it our priority to apply for any and every grant offered to small businesses with virtually no response.
We now find ourselves at a full year since we closed our blinds with still no promise of reopening. We have lost more than a half a million dollars of revenue. It has been heartbreaking to not be there for our community in times of need. The Buc, after all, is where everyone goes in tough times, to celebrate milestones, watch our local sports teams win championships, and to gather during local disasters such as the fires that our area experienced. We are barely hanging in there and it has been at the expense of my mom's depleting retirement savings.
We are in desperate need of help to keep our little bar afloat. Like the many others in our situation, we are beaten down and depressed at the hopelessness for bars in California. This year has taken a tremendous toll on our family. If we receive assistance from the Barstool Fund, it will enable us to pay the rent, help our employees, to refresh our inventory, furnish our patio and to cover the many costs necessary to open again once allowed. With reduced capacity and/or hours, we are worried that we won't be able to pay our employees. We would be forever grateful for your kindness and the village of Sierra Madre will thank you as well for helping to recover their beloved little bar. On behalf of my mother and myself, thank you for this opportunity to apply.