Mark Verge, fifth generation Santa Monican, serial entrepreneur and owner of four Santa Monica restaurants, is all about building community and giving back, which is the exact philosophy he’s channeling into his latest venture — Locals Only.
This bar-within-a-bar is located in the back patio of well loved Main Street bar and restaurant Ashland Hill. It is designed as a cozy yet lively space that can be rented out for private events and fundraisers.
Verge and the team kicked off the fun with a grand opening party on April 19, where 20 percent of all food and drink sales were donated to Step Up on Second. Verge is a big supporter of the homeless housing non-profit and plans on hosting Step Up fundraisers at Locals Only on the third Tuesday of each month.
Step Up on Second is a Santa Monica based non-profit that provides permanent housing, supportive services, and workforce development to individuals experiencing homelessness. It began in 1984 as just one housing project on Second Street and has since expanded to over 1,850 permanent supportive housing units spread across six California counties as well as Nashville, three counties in Georgia and one county in Florida. It has been run since 2001 by Tod Lipka, who like Verge, grew up in Santa Monica.
“Tod has always been my gold standard to go to just to talk about homelessness because he understands it. He’s really worked hard to get people off the streets,” said Verge.
Locals Only is happy to host fundraisers for a wide range of non-profit organizations and willing to donate 20 percent of food and drink sales to any good cause. It can also be rented out for private events and parties.
The name Locals Only is intended to be tongue in cheek and poke fun at the localism displayed by certain groups of surfers. Verge remembers many years ago when he used to be a lifeguard on the Santa Monica beach, he would always try to make it known that everyone is welcome even when there were ‘punky surfer kids’ acting like they owned the beach.
“I never liked the locals concept, so I think at Locals Only if somebody comes in and buys a drink they become a local. I feel like LA is so welcoming that the whole locals only thing is so funny to me,” said Verge.
Ashland Hill is located at 2807 Main Street and open for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks seven days a week.