“Emotion.” That’s the word that Dave Hardy will forever associate with the Beachside Bar-Café, the Goleta Beach landmark that he’s closing this month after 36 years of serving the community.
“There is just a ton of emotion about the Beachside, with the customers, the employees, the ownership,” he explained on Friday, the morning after announcing the restaurant’s permanent closure on January 31, or until inventory lasts. “It’s a lot of fun to be in that position where people enjoyed what we did, and that’s why we did it,” he said. “It’s what I wanted out of my life, to do something that can give back to society. It’s been a wonderful run.”
Hardy blamed the closure primarily on the economic damage wrought by the COVID pandemic, but also said that recent minimum wage hikes also made business tough. “We’ve got a lot of overhead,” he explained. “We just can’t go on forever losing money. We just didn’t see any end in sight. We have just a year left on our lease, so we decided to pull the plug.”
With the property’s 40-year lease set to expire in March 2022, Santa Barbara County Parks was planning to start a new request for proposals process later this year. “That’s going to be accelerated,” said County Parks Superintendent Jeffrey Lindgren, who’d expected the Beachside to be a leader in the next bid proposal until learning of the decision this week. “It’s another one of our Santa Barbara icons closing down shop,” he lamented.
But filling the location probably won’t be much trouble. “There seems to be a lot of interest,” said Lindgren, who’d already fielded a handful of hopeful restaurateur inquiries less than 24 hours after the news broke. “That’s exciting.”
And what will be on the table for a future operator is even more diverse than what’s there today, as the Beachside never expanded into potential service areas, such as behind the snack shack. “There is some good opportunity to expand the footprint of the restaurant operation into the area on the other side of the pier,” said Lindgren, noting that the area would work well for outdoor dining or special events. “A beer and wine garden would be pretty awesome,” he agreed.
Predicting when a new restaurant would open is impossible — there’s no way to predict any required infrastructure improvements until the Beachside vacates — but Lindgren hopes to have a new lease on paper by the end of the year. (Interested parties can email him at email@example.com.)
“It’s a great spot, and there aren’t too many like it,” said Lindgren, who was also involved in the lease of The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach, aka Arroyo Burro Beach Park. “The opportunity is a pretty fantastic one for some future operator.”
That’s what Hardy recognized all those years ago, when he took over the lease of what was then Scotch & Sirloin in 1985. That restaurant’s owner also had a Scotch & Sirloin in Ventura, and would fly his helicopter back and forth between the two, until he crashed and died at Rincon. “We ended up buying it out of his estate,” said Hardy, who soon changed the name and style. “We wanted to have a casual beach experience.”
Hardy’s first taste of the restaurant business was working at North Woods Inn near the Santa Anita racetrack, close to San Gabriel, where he grew up. “I just loved the business,” he recalled.
Hardy came north to play both football and rugby at UCSB — being the first to ever score a point for the rugby team is his “claim to fame” — and started working at Chuck’s Steakhouse in 1967 a few months after it first opened, staying there seven years. (Chuck’s founder/owner Larry Stone is a partner in the Beachside.) In 1978, Hardy bought Jasper’s, a steakhouse on Calle Real in Goleta, but wound up selling when the Beachside “got to be a fistful” of work.
Over the decades, the Beachside, which had about 100 staff members in normal times, employed generations of UCSB students as well as locals. “These were their interim jobs while going through school and onto bigger and better things,” said Hardy. Those jobs often led to lifelong friendships and even marriages, including that of Hardy’s own daughter.
There were scary times, such as when a late winter storm in 2014 sucked manager Amado Simon out to sea, leaving him clinging to the pier with a dislocated shoulder. “We’re very grateful he survived,” said Peggy Hardy, Dave’s wife, who helped run the restaurant for many years. Said Dave, “That was a heck of a storm.”
The closure may be a reluctant blessing in disguise for the Hardys, who now live in Palm Springs. On the verge of his 75th birthday next month, Dave did admit, “I’m willing to relax a little bit.”
But they remain most dismayed for those dedicated employees such as Simon and Erik Trippel, another longtime manager. “We didn’t get to graciously leave together,” said Peggy. “That’s the sad part. We can’t do anything to show everyone how much we appreciate them.”
There’s nothing legally that County Parks can do to ensure the next owners are as community-oriented as the Hardys, other than create criteria to encourage such sentiments. But Lindgren did promise that the final decision “will not only be bottom-line driven.”
Whoever takes over, Dave Hardy had some advice. “You really have to have a passion because it’s so involved,” he said. “You’re open seven days a week. We have people there from 7 in the morning to one or two in the morning. It’s just an ongoing conveyor belt.”
Though Hardy never expected to close under the dark skies of a global pandemic, he believes that the Beachside’s legacy will endure. “It won’t overshadow what we’ve done down there,” said Hardy. “We’re just so proud to have been a part of so many people’s lives.”
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