BROADWAY — Ever since Beth Rich moved to California a few months ago, all she’s done is drink craft beers. While others would call that a problem, she calls it research.
“I love good beers and I want to get to know the local ones,” Rich said.
It makes sense given that Rich, her son and his father are now the owners of a new pub in Downtown called The Commons, which features roughly 20 beers on tap ranging from hoppy IPAs to smooth, chocolate porters and bubble-gum Belgians.
But as any bar owner knows, it’s not all about sipping suds and socializing, especially when the pub used to be known more for cocaine and cockroaches than craft beers.
The Commons sits where the Broadway Ale House once stood. That short-lived establishment fell on hard times after the owner was investigated for selling drugs from the bar, arrested for drug possession, and later, sale of liquor to a minor. The owner needed to sell, having lost her liquor license.
Rich swooped in after her son became friends with an employee at the ale house, Ken Grinde, who is now The Commons’ general manager responsible for selecting the best craft beers in the region and beyond.
“It was a great location and it’s a cozy space, and after a few beers you find yourself saying, ‘I could do this,'” Rich said. “We heard [the previous owner] was interested in getting out, and the rest is history.”
Rich closed the deal in late October and was open within a few weeks. During that time she had to completely clean the bar, redecorate and make other small changes that wouldn’t require a permit from City Hall, which could drag on and put her and her partners in a financial bind.
It was a significant risk as Rich quit her job helping students with financial aid at a college and moved out west. It helped that her son was living in Santa Monica to attend college and could provide some help in between his studies. For Rich the bar has become her life as she is responsible for just about everything that goes on there, from the finances to cleaning the bathrooms.
The hard work has paid dividends. The space is brighter, roomier and more inviting than before. She brought in homemade snacks (including her Uncle Joe’s cereal mix), fresh coffee and her old-school turntable and records to help make The Commons, named after a bar the Michigan-native used to hang out at in college, a true neighborhood bar.
“We are really trying to focus on the locals,” Rich said. “We obviously get a lot of tourists who walk in, but we are really focused on getting the locals, people who work in the area. We want to be a destination spot in Santa Monica.”
One way of doing that is the Beer Bank. People can purchase a beer for a friend or family member so whenever they show up their first round is covered. A chalkboard wall allows people to write a note as well.
Rich also encourages people to bring in their own records to play. There’s still karaoke on Saturdays and Rich is hoping to have beer education classes soon as well as a kitchen to serve up pub grub. In the meantime, patrons can bring in their own food from restaurants around the corner.
“There’s still a lot we would like to do here,” Rich said. “And we’re working on it.”
That includes a new sign out front. Right now it says “Ale House,” a hold over from the previous establishment. Just another way of not having to deal with City Hall’s permit process. It makes sense. Why spend time in line at City Hall when you can be in a pub with a cold pint in your hands?
If you go
Santa Monica, Calif.