What the Hell Is a Book Bar? Soon There Might Be One in Long Beach

Kreutzwald Library Restaurant and Lounge
Kreutzwald Library Restaurant and Lounge

Long Beach’s newest bar, the Brass Lamp, won’t really be a bar at all — at least not in the traditional sense of the word. It’s not a dive bar where the well drinks are over-poured and there’s still carpet on the walls. It’s not a sports bar lined with flat-screen TVs, offering Bud Light pitcher specials. And it’s definitely not a speakeasy where you sip pre–Prohibition era cocktails with your nose up and pinky out.

Instead, the Brass Lamp will be filled with enough comfy chairs and reading material to call itself Southern California’s first book bar: a rare breed of drinking establishment that appeals to loners, literary dorks and creative thinkers alike.

But what the hell is a book bar anyway, and why does L.A. need one?

“It’s like a coffee shop for adults,” says owner Samantha Argosino, who plans to open the Brass Lamp in a historic brick building on the Promenade in downtown Long Beach sometime next year. “A book bar is an alternative to your typical bars, where one can be alone and read a book or get work done. But it’s also intended to be community-driven, so I want to use this bar as a forum to showcase artists’ work, writers’ books, musicians’ music, and a place where community groups, clubs and organizations can meet.”

The Brass Lamp’s Kickstarter — which aims to help secure the remaining 25 percent of funds needed for the bar’s initial buildout — blasts out the project’s mantra of “Read. Write. Drink.” and describes the place as “a bar for introverts” where you can, of course, socialize too. And thanks to a recent deal with indie bookstore Open (which closed in 2012 after a decade as Long Beach’s premier house of tomes), the book bar will be stocked with thousands of actual used books, available for browsing or purchase. Think of it as your living room with bartenders, or a library that serves small plates and craft beer, or even a European brown bar where you can linger with an espresso in solitude. 

If the book bar concept sounds like a particularly niche mix of uses for today's American drinker, that’s because it is. Only a few exist in the country, and of course they’re in such perennially progressive cities as Denver, Austin, San Francisco and Seattle. While the vibe at those already open leans far more into "Hey, have a drink inside this coffee shop or bookstore!" Argosino’s vision is for a cozy, romantic, reading-conducive, jazzy-type lounge, with separate private rooms available by reservation.

“It will have a traditional, Harvard-esque library feel to it with a lot of contemporary-urban elements,” she says. It also will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. to accommodate early risers to night owls.

Though it will be the region's first book bar, the Brass Lamp promises not to be a novelty. As a casual community hub, it will be a locals-first spot that'll fall right in line with the other improved drinking opportunities that have come to downtown Long Beach in the last five years (its 4,000-square-foot location is across the street from brewpub Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, craft beer bar Congregation Ale House and wine-and-whiskey bar the Stave). 

"L.A. is so ripe for a book bar, because there is a need for a place like this," she says. "And although I’m starting off in Long Beach, I hope to expand to the Greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas soon."

To contribute to the Brass Lamp's Kickstarter, click here. The Brass Lamp will be located at 245 Promenade, Long Beach.


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