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Photos by Brian Addison. Graphic courtesy of The Ordinarie.
The owners and spirits that make the Auld Dubliner in Long Beach one of the most revered spaces in the city have a trick up their sleeves.
They want to make an American tavern—rich with historical nods to the establishment of American hospitality and communal drinking—but they wish to do it by way of turning one of the most sacred live music spaces in Long Beach’s history and creating something that’s simultaneously new and old feeling.
The Blue Cafe at 210 N. Promenade was once a goldmine of the Long Beach music scene, its space on the southern side of the Promenade in DTLB constantly filled with the sweet sounds of live music being performed on its gold’n’purple velvet adorned stage since it opened in 1992.
Los Lobos. Charlie Musselwhite. James Marman. Blasters. Even Tim Hot Damn Grobaty.
Come 2009, it would shutter its windows and remain closed (though a brief stint at 217 Pine Ave. tried to revive the venue in 2011 only to be evicted by 2013). After years of sitting empty, P&O Properties would shell out $5.2M for the 27,200 sq. ft. space in 2016, which also includes 218 N. Promenade that now houses D Architecture.
Christy Caldwell—and his Auld Dub partners David Copley and Eric Johnson—have something different for the bottom floor space of the art deco masterpiece building that is the only vacant spot on the Promenade between Foundation/The Stave and Michael’s/Dog Haus.
It’s going to be called The Ordinarie and, in all truthfulness, has been the brainchild of Caldwell for several years now while he simply awaited the right space to create his idea.
“I really loved this idea of exploring the origins of American hospitality,” he said. “And that is through the ordinarie, which is what the Commonwealth called a tavern or bar when this country began becoming established.”
Caldwell’s history is correct: the ordinarie, or what later became known as the tavern, was written into the laws of the Commonwealth of 1634: “Every community is required by law to build an Ordinarie for the receiving, refreshment, and entertainment of travelers and strangers.”
Long before talks of walls and deportation, there was nothing more anti-establishment in the country that would soon become the US than not only welcoming outsiders but being hospitable toward them—making the Ordinarie the epicenter of 17th century town life, acting as both town hall and watering hole and, according to Dr. Nancy Struna of the University of Maryland, they were “and was so important that it would often be built before the church or the school. Of course, food and drink were essential to the daily life of the Ordinarie.”
Caldwell and his crew want to explore this—and not in the sense of creating anything “pure,” but rather, melding the contemporary with the classic.
“The building is historic so we’re keeping as many of its features as possible—the exposed brick, some of the art deco details,” he said. “But we also want to have a lot of natural light so we’re creating huge windows along with a patio space, to give the space a bit more openness as opposed to a really dark, older tavern.”
And that also translates into the food, something Caldwell calls “fine food without the fuss.”
That means a menu that is quite the opposite of their extensive, Irish fare-driven Auld Dub menu; The Ordinarie will be, at its core, American—and that means catering to bar food in an elevated manner. Think quality, chef-driven sandwiches. Easy bites to pick up with your hands. Food that pairs well with an extensive beverage program that will likely be the group’s most craft-centric cocktail list they’ve ever made.
And don’t fret: live music will be a part of the operation but more in the form of three-piece ensembles over fully-amplified bands.
“At its core, this is about a return to exploring American hospitality,” Caldwell said. “This is about co-mingling, about discussing ideas with one another—and in all honesty, having a damn good drink and food.”
We can salute that.
The Ordinarie will be located at 210 Promenade N. and is expected to open by fall.