Monday, April 22, 2024

New owners of Long Beach dive bar staple Crow’s want to make it, well, more Crow-y

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As we push toward celebrating Long Beach Food Scene: Last Call—a 15-event, 10-day long event celebrating our city’s rich bar culture and the people who make it happen—we will offer a series of features that highlight everything from our most stellar cocktail programs at restaurants to dive bars (such as this celebration of Crow’s Long Beach) to the very events occurring that allow you to lift a glass to a social and economic driver that rarely receives the love its deserves. For more information on Long Beach Last Call, click here.

To know Long Beach is to know its dive bars—be it The Interlude or 3636, the Til-2 Club or Broadway Bar. And when it comes to the rich dive bar legends of Long Beach, few have the scope of status that is attached to Crow’s in Naples.

Yes, they might be the owners of Legends and The Auld Dubliner and The Ordinarie—three, if any, deeply respected restaurants across the city of Long Beach, each for different and distinct reasons of their own—but they are also the owners of Poor Richard’s (colloquially and lovingly referred to as Broke Dick’s) and now, the official owners of Crow’s.

And if anything, David Copley, Eric Johnson, and Matt Peterson are not here to further augment Crow’s toward some new, craftier iteration but return it more toward its much-loved phase of the 1990s, when brothers and owners Dickie and Bobby Babian not just ran the bar but became synonymous with it.

Returning Crow’s in Long Beach to the ’90s dive bar perfection it once embodied

“Crow’s went through some drastic changes in its more recent years,” said co-owner David Copley, who many will know as the front-facing man at The Auld Dubliner. “When it was with its original owner [Dickie Babian], it was a Long Beach bar, hardcore Long Beach. I honestly can’t think of a bar more Long Beach than Crow’s when Dickie and Bobby ran it. And then through ownership swaps and design changes, it shifted away from the way the Babians ran it.”

And the new crew, led by Copley, Johnson, and Peterson, want to return it to the days when the now-90-year-old Dickie—a five-foot-maybe-three block of wonderfully wacky and outright eyebrow-raising of a character—largely embodied the bar.

Dickie and Bobby, the latter of whom often went by the name “Bullets,” were a pair that were often flanked by two main things: chicks and cocktails.

“Mr. Babian ranks among the most colorful bar owners in Long Beach history, if not the wackiest,” wrote long-time Press-Telegram journalist Doug Krikorian. “With his prodigious daily drinking output, which was always a Grey Goose and ice with a splash of water, his impromptu European jaunts with various gal pals, his wild gambling forays, and his expensive bar-hopping adventures—countless $100 tips for the bartenders and waitresses—in Long Beach, LA, Palm Springs, and many other venues.”

Once Bobby passed, Dickie was the representative before passing it onto his son, Jimmy, who then handed it over to his son Jake. The various passing-of-hands ultimately lead to a Crow’s that was, well, not as Crow-y as it once was.

“They tried to make it more of a club environment—and it’s not like its a huge space so those little changes drastically affect the feel of it,” Johnson said. “And it was successful for them in a sense but I feel like it didn’t resonate with its original cohort of patrons. That’s certainly when I stopped going.”

Owning the hardcore dive vibes of Crow’s in Long Beach—and a full-circle moment for its new owners

The return to the hardcore dive vibes that Crow’s embodied for the 1990s and 2000s is precisely where the new crew wants to head toward—and they’ve already begun it: Gone are the neon lights, all the crazy different signs, the couches and in are black-and-white vintage photos of Naples, old beer signs and, of course, the carpet.

“Those damn couches were the first to go—as in within the first 30 minutes of owning it,” Copley said, laughing.

And for Copley and Johnson—who are not only dear friends but longtime business partners—Crow’s represents a part of their Long Beach history like no other. Acting as a post-work hangout when the pair operated Limerick’s on the emerald isle of Naples and, before that, when they were gondoliers for Gondola Getaway.

“When I first came here, we would wrap up Gondola Getaway, bike as fast we could to [the now-closed] Acapulco Inn, down some pitchers, and then haul ass to The Dirty Bird for last call,” Copley recalls. “We would often say, ‘What time is it? Crowsing time.’ Hence began our love affair with Crow’s. Even when we were at Limericks, we closed at midnight so last call would never be at Limerick’s; it was always at Crow’s.”

And with it being a licensed establishment since 1954, it is only behind Joe Jost’s (which opened in 1924) and The Annex (which opened in 1952) as the city’s oldest watering hole. After that, a plethora of 48s—that is, places which have licenses that permit them to sell nothing but alcohol—paved the way for the city’s growing Naval and longshoreman presence as a happily drinking town.

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“If you know of any 48s that might be losing their essence and the owner wants to walk away, let us know,” Johnson said, laughing. “But in seriousness, it—at least for us—about protecting a certain part of Long Beach culture.”

Wait—you mentioned “Long Beach Last Call.” What is it?

After the success of my restaurant week last year during August, Long Beach Food Scene Week, bar owners and tenders rightfully asked: “What about a week for us?”

So I decided to oblige and present Long Beach Food Scene: Last Call, a ten-day long celebration of Long Beach’s amazing bar culture, it’s even more amazing workers, and the industry that often goes without recognition as one of our city’s largest economic and social drivers. 

Thanks to my collaborators—Scott Lennard of RNDC and Chris Lewis of Nosotros Tequila y Mezcal—we’ve created some 15 events across the ten-day span on Last Call. To say the least, we’ve worked our asses off and we hope you’ll come out and celebrate with us (that is, if we make it to Day 10 alive).

And Crow’s is a part of those events, acting as a place for our Dive Bar Bingo event as well as the kick-off spot to our Big Red Bus dive bar crawl.

Crow’s is located at 5728 E. 2nd St.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

4 COMMENTS

  1. When I saw “crows” I was thinking. Oh, we do have lot’s of Bird Crows. As I continued to read..I just lol!
    I know Eric Johnson!! !Congratulations

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