"What's this going to be?" a passerby yells into the cavernous, under-construction site at the corner of Broadway and Downtown Long Beach's Promenade. "Not a chain, I hope."
Two weeks before the doors roll up and any Pilsner is poured, Natalie van Waardenburg and Garry Muir are walking through The Stave, their soon-to-be wine and beer bar. The space looks far from finished, and the furniture arrives tomorrow. Their expressions alternate between unwavering confidence and disbelief as they mull over what has to be done in the next 14 days. Muir offers a private tour inside the dual-compartment walk-in refrigerator, while van Waardenburg opens boxes and inspects doorknobs. The electricians and builders are busy tying up loose ends. The toilet seat cover dispensers have not been hung in the right spots. There's always something. But no, this will not be a chain.
The Stave is Muir's second project -- he's co-owner of downtown Los Angeles' Corkbar -- and a first for van Waardenburg and their third partner, John Murawski. It took about a year to settle on the location, but the outdoor patio and welcoming atmosphere from the city and surrounding businesses sealed the deal. Long Beach is in the process of growing the Promenade (like Santa Monica's Third Street), a six-block stretch of restaurants, retail and residential units, like the 62 condominiums above the bar.
Muir and van Waardenburg are looking forward to opening tonight, but it's obvious the process of building a bar from the ground up excites them almost as much. "I had a personal wine collection at 16," van Waardenburg says. She traveled through 15 countries in Europe brushing up on beverages, worked at a handful of wineries in Sonoma, spent time as a sommelier and ran her own wine brokerage; all with the hopes of owning her own spot one day. Muir likes logistics. He's a "soup to nuts" guy.
A stave is the oak slat on the side of a beer or wine barrel. Not surprisingly, the guiding principles of the Long Beach hangout are simplicity and accessibility. The 60-foot bar is more pentagonal than straight, so those on each side can see each other. Muir thinks it looks like a big smiley face as people walk in the roll-up doors. The décor is sturdy: marble slabs for table tops, heavy-duty bar tops, large cushioned vinyl booths and stools. The bar resembles a cozy lodge, yet the natural light and neutral colors brand it L.B.C.
The magic is in the details for van Waardenburg and Muir. The menu -- beer, wine, beverages, charcuterie and cheese, nibbles and sweets -- is written on mirrors. The bathrooms are modern and roomy. Coors and Bud Light Draft are served in mason jars and beef jerky on butcher paper. The charcuterie boards are made of Black Walnut from Oregon.
The wine list is categorized by palate preference. "We wanted to find wine that was approachable," says van Waardenburg. "Wines you didn't have to have food with, or that came alive with food." Whites file under aromatic, or crisp and clean. Reds rank as lively, or robust and tannic. The charcuterie and cheese boards are parceled into regions: Spain and Portugal, Italian, Northern Europe and domestic.
Beer choices are drinker-friendly, too. "We wanted to go to countries traditionally known for beer and take their traditional beers, without getting too crafty," says Muir. "It's like a session. You hang out and have a few drinks. You don't have one 11% beer and are flat on your back."
Pulling from their Dutch (van Waardenburg) and Scottish (Muir) roots, the Angelenos are spritzing Downtown Long Beach with international flavor. But the Stave is glocal. "The number one way to endure," Muir says, "is to be a part of the neighborhood."
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The Stave: 170 The Promenade North, Long Beach; (562) 612-4750.
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