One day, while hanging around the Funk Zone, Scott Manser and Damian Gover overheard a group of people lamenting the lack of places in Santa Barbara dedicated to sparkling wine. “That sparked the idea,” said Manser, who’d always wanted to open a bar. Said Gover, “This town has a place for every type of clientele, and people love champagne.”
Both men were already firmly entrenched in the food scene: Longtime State Street bartender Manser, who’s from Vancouver, Washington, is co-owner of The Shop Café on Milpas, and Santa Barbara native, Sonoma State–educated Gover started Mac N’ Cheese After Dark in 2012, which still serves “kid food for drunk people” out of Velvet Jones every Thursday-Sunday night. They’d been wanting to partner on a new project, so why not fill the bubbles vacuum?
Things fell into place rather serendipitously. Manser always thought that the dimly lit e-cigarette spot on West Haley Street would make a great low-key lounge, being just off of State. So when they heard that the tenants were moving out, Manser broke the news to the landlord, who let them take over the lease. Then they applied for a liquor license and got one without a problem. After eight months of design work — “old Hollywood with an edge,” said Manser of the motif, which features the original black-and-white checkered floors and a piano in the back — the Champagne Room started popping corks and pouring sparkling wine in September.
“We’re serving all things bubbles, all things European,” said Gover, whose menu features a number of bottles for sale, from Prosecco and cava to real-deal Champagne, but is focused on by-the-glass options ranging from $8 to $45 in price. The beer list, however, does include a domestic: Miller High Life, also known as the Champagne of Beers. “It’s a joke in a way,” admitted Gover, “but people love it.”
The clientele is all word-of-mouth right now, with many couples coming in before or after dinner for a drink, or small groups of friends meeting up before the midnight closing time to toss back a bottle and hit the nearby clubs afterward. The Champagne Room also serves Bellinis and mimosas on Sunday morning, and there are plans for finger foods in the near future, movie nights with popcorn, and plenty of holiday parties this season. Said Manser of his dream bar, “It’s catching on.”
The Champagne Room (7 W. Haley St.) is open Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-midnight, and Sunday, 3-10 p.m. See facebook.com/champagneroomsb or call (805) 455-0424.