Two years after beer-loving bar owners the Goat Group (think: the Surly Goat and Little Bear) ventured into the world of brown liquor with Blind Donkey in Pasadena, the concept has found its second home in an unlikely L.A.-area locale – Long Beach.
Like the one in Pasadena, more than 100 whiskeys from around the world are on the menu at the Long Beach Blind Donkey each available in 1- or 2-ounce pours. Unlike the other Blind Donkey, Long Beach's is located in the basement of the historic Broadlind Hotel building in the city's East Village Arts District, boasts three times as much space as its Pasadena sister and comes with a storied history that dates back to the Prohibition era, when a tunnel supposedly connected the underground bar with the famous Lafayette Hotel across the street. ]
“We stripped this place back to the studs, and there was something very old and traditional about the space,” says co-owner Ryan Sweeney, who is also behind Highland Park's Verdugo Bar. “It had all the bones to be a kick-ass whiskey bar.”
With walls lined with staves from barrels used by Orange County's Bruery, Sweeney – along with co-owners Brandon Bradford, John Bower and Alen Aivazian – launched the food-free Blind Donkey in Long Beach last week with a soft opening that will go until the grand-opening celebration on May 9. And already, he says the neighborhood has gravitated toward the downtown-adjacent bar's extensive whiskey selection, assortment of old-school games (pinball, shuffleboard or darts, anyone?) and photobooth.
It helps that Blind Donkey is the first official whiskey bar in the city and many of the spirits on deck were previously available only at nearby Stache Bar, if at all.
Long Beach may be more often associated with dive bars than specialized spirit lounges, but its revitalized downtown and a night crowd eager for more options is starting to attract L.A. entrepreneurs like the Goat Group.
“I admit that I didn't know a lot about Long Beach when we first started talking about opening up there,” Sweeney says. “But when you come down and drive around and see it, you can feel the energy. I totally understand what's happening here, and I think we can be a part of it.”