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     THE INESTIMABLE MARBAR whitw logo
BY JIM RUE

The Unique Charm of the Marine Room

Pretty much every town south of the Arctic Circle has at least one bar. Many of them resemble Moe's Bar on the Simpsons. They are unadorned cinder block buildings constructed to serve a straightforward purpose. Some of these are perfectly worthy watering holes, and bulwarks in the communities where they stand. Orange County, being Orange County, has some exceptions, bars that add to the atmosphere created by the regulars by providing a lounging place that causes tourists to stop just inside the door and admire, "Wow. What a beautiful place!"


Old-World Charm - But Clean!

The Marine Room in Laguna Beach is such a place.  Expertly carved hardwood replicas of sailfish and marlin hang on the paneled walls. A commemorative textile is framed near the restroom. The printed handkerchief celebrates the Battle of Manila campaign of General John Pershing in 1898. Hardwood floors, warm furnishings and a beautifully maintained, well-stocked bar make the Marine Room a welcoming destination. Legendary local band The Missiles of October have entertained here for decades. The band has been rocking on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons without a basic change in staff for sixteen years. The band has several successful self-published CDs. They would like to make the big time, but they don't want it too much. The drummer, Frank, is into his sixties and has never any job other than drumming. When bassist Jimmy divulged that his wife had cancer a few years ago, the community turned out in droves, turned their pockets inside out to help the uninsured family through their rough patch.

And when community members have trouble, the Marine Room and the Missiles turn out in kind. When artist Peter Riegler died last year, the place was closed for a wake and a benefit for his young son. This spring when street musician Lonnie lost his girlfriend of many years to cancer, people poured into the Marine Room to remember the gentle Sue Nachman, and to console a heartbroken Lonnie.






General Pershing commemerative handkerchief as seen in American Public House Review
GENERAL PERSHING COMMEMERATIVE





Dykes on Bikes (and others too)

Summer Sunday afternoons, every parking space on Ocean Avenue is filled with tricked out Harleys and custom-built bikes. But the Marine Room is no biker bar. The Sunday regulars are dentists, lawyers and other such stuff, more into putting black lights into their undercarriages than getting into fights. Marine Room owner Kelly Boyd (whose grandfather fought with Pershing) is a rare Republican voice on the city council and his nephew Robbie runs the place. The biggest disputes the two get involved in are regular run-ins with the city over excessive noise as the expensive chrome hogs enter or leave town.

Laguna Beach is a tourist town with surprising small town habits. As soon as the annual Patriots' Day parade ends in early March, the bar fills with Vietnam veterans and a kilted band of bagpipers. It's a noisy, rowdy bunch on that day. As one might expect in a very liberal town with many retired Marine homeowners and many resident full-time artists, the political discussions can become heated.




Patriotic patrons of the Marine room as seen in American Public House Review
PATRIOTIC PATRONS



Pipe Band the Marine Room Tavern as seen in American Public House Review
BAGPIPE BAND


Cartoonists

In another era the Marine Room was a sanctuary for famous cartoonists. Original art by Virgil Partch (Big George), the Interlandi twins (Playboy and the New Yorker), Charles Shulz  and a host of other visiting cartoonists covers one whole wall. It seems that cartoonists in the fifties had quite a lot of time on their hands. This marauding band often felt the need for sanctuary. They frequented a number of bistros in a much less populous south Orange County at the time, but the Marine Room was always a favorite. Cartoonists of today still drop in. So do well-known underwater photographer Beverly Factor, and Beth and Steve Wood of the sixties band, Honk. Beth hosts a high-powered singer/songwriter night at the Marine Room on Tuesdays, when lots of new material gets tried out publicly for the first time.

The Marine Room filled their dance floor in back with pool tables a few years ago and moved the bands to the front of the bar right next to the front door. They also gave up their permit for dancing. People still dance, but they do so between the tables or on the sidewalk outside. Green awnings cover the sidewalks, and favored bands draw crowds  under those awnings to listen the music through the open windows even when it rains, which isn't very often.

For all the traffic and activity and tourists (and unwelcome MTV fans) in Laguna Beach, it can be easy for a visitor to miss the underlying personality of this town of iconoclasts. Thursday nights in the winter, especially in the rain, give a unique view of the  heart of the city, gathered together for a rare night when we have the town to ourselves.
If you plan to spend an evening at the Marbar as it is called, eat before you go. The alternatives are to dine on beernuts, the only food found inside, or spend quite a lot at one of the dozens of fine food establishments located within a two block radius.



Marine Room Bar as seen in American Public House Review
THE BAR AT THE MARINE ROOM TAVERN





Marine room exterior with Rolls Royce as seen in American Public House Review
THE MARINE ROOM TAVERN WELCOMES
AN ECLECTIC CLIENTELE



Marine Room interior as seen in American Public House Review
THE DECOR REFLECTS THE TAVERN'S NAME



Missiles of October as seen in American Public House Review
MISSILES OF OCTOBER



Cartoon wall at the Marine Room Tavern as seen in American Public House Review
THE ICONIC CARTOON WALL




The Missiles of October at The Marine Room Tavern in Laguna Beach, CA. as seen in American Public House review
THE HOUSE BAND



Come On Down!

Main Beach Park is not a hundred steps away from the Marbar, and a moonlit stroll on the boardwalk can be a perfect counterpoint to the music and conversation waiting on the other side of Coast Highway. If you are there with your main squeeze, there is no where on the planet more romantic than Main Beach Park under a harvest moon. If you are on your own, come by in the daytime. The eye candy is second to none.






Bearded Celebrant at the mrine Room Tavern as seen in American Public House Review
HERE'S TO THE
INESTIMABLE MARBAR




THE MARINE ROOM TAVERN


214 Ocean Avenue

Laguna Beach, California 92651

(949) 494 - 3027


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AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW text, images, and music © 2007-2009. All rights reserved. 
All content is subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. Email: ed.petersen@americanpublichousereview.com for permission before use.

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