The patrons of The Tully speak about the bar’s owner, Tanya Tully, with the kind of breathless reverence typically reserved for war heroes and Beyoncé.
“Tanya is amazing,” said Tyler, a Westside resident and Tully regular. (None of the regulars offered a last name.) “What she has done is something I can’t yet put words to.”
“Tanya knows how to connect with humans, especially weirdos,” added Frank, who lives near the 154 but routinely makes the trek to the Westside spot. “It’s always been a type of connection that’s very genuine.”
Tully, an SBCC grad and former bartender at the Cliff Room on the Mesa, bought the business with partner Tony Haaland in 2017, making The Tully the latest entry in a decades-long history of bars operating in the building.
“It used to be the San Andres Fault,” explained Pepe, another one of The Tully’s stalwart fixtures. “It was shitty back then. If there wasn’t a stabbing here every night, it was rare.”
Now in Tully’s hands, the bar maintains an authentically blue-collar aesthetic while providing a safe and inclusive atmosphere. “I think I’m good at creating an environment that everyone feels comfortable in,” she said. “I want everyone to feel welcome and be respected, and to respect the bar.”
In a city with a seemingly endless supply of craft beer, precious mixology, and Instagrammable decor, The Tully serves as a refreshingly down-market alternative. It’s small and dim, dressed up with little more than a few booths, a couple TVs, and a single pool table. However, what it lacks in refinement, it makes up for with a familial energy and a remarkably diverse clientele.
“We’re bringing people together,” Tully explained. “Booze might be the shared interest, but they come from totally different walks of life.”
Positioned in the center of the Westside’s main commercial drag, The Tully is the neighborhood’s only bar and its de facto community center. Tully sees it as a kind of bulwark against the encroaching wave of gentrification, ensuring that the Westside’s longtime residents continue to have a place to go. As the daughter of a Nicaraguan mother and a Caucasian Canadian father, Tanya recognizes the value of cultural coalescence.
“We have white, wealthy people coming in, and then we have the homeboys coming in,” she observed. “They’re all kind of mingling. It’s kind of a neat thing.”
At one of The Tully’s recent karaoke nights, Pepe lets out an impressively powerful grito before launching into a Mexican love ballad. His vocal rendition spans just about every key. Nevertheless, the crowd, including his wife and son, cheer on with heartfelt enthusiasm.
Tully works behind the bar, deftly toggling between her roles as drink dispenser and den mother. She scans the raucous room with quiet equanimity, watching as her eclectic mix of customers smile, drink, and laugh together in this little corner of Santa Barbara that she’s brought to life.
“It really is touching,” said Tully. “It brings tears to my eyes, and I know it sounds corny and cheesy, but it feels so good. It’s so gratifying.”
1431 San Andres St.; (805) 770-7724