Thursday, July 18, 2024

¡Toma!, taking over former Lupe’s space in Downtown Long Beach, aims for summer opening

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Cheers for Downtown Long Beach. Toma (stylized ¡Toma!) will be opening its doors within the coming months inside the former Lupe’s space. Announced in October of last year following Chef Jason Witzl’s sale of his much-missed mariscos space, the current owners of Padre and Mezcalero have big plans.

Who are the people behind Toma?

Jay Krymis and Michel Verdi, husband-and-wife owners of Padre and Mezcalero, will be taking on the space. They fill a much needed hole at the Mosaic complex that watched Lupe’s and its neighbor, Portuguese Bend Distilling, close. While Broken Spirits Distillery is now officially open, bringing with it some of the city’s best handcrafted liquors, Toma is aiming to formally join them as neighbors come summer.

“We’re hoping to have the space opened by July,” said Michel. “We’re still

Standing amid an array of boxes, newly fabricated tables, and a space that is slowly looking more like Toma and less like Lupe’s, Michel is proud of where it is heading.

The pair have long been searching for a new home. With the announcement that the building which houses Padre and Mezcalero at 525 E. Broadway will eventually be demolished to make way for a residential development, their entire team has been teetering on when, exactly, the closure would come. And this led them on their years long search.

What will the vibe of the space be?

Jay and Michel have always had a knack for making something that feels simultaneously very specific and very approachable. Their former FUBAR space and current Schmitty’s bar in West Hollywood exemplified this. The latter? That gay bar eschewed the pretty’n’perfect for the raunchy’n’raw. The former? Embraces eclectic while avoiding the club atmosphere of nearly every gay other bar on Santa Monica.

For Toma, Michel wants “party and social vibes” that don’t lean toward the clubby or tacky. (Hello, Pine Avenue.)

“I love color and I think it brings out the best in everything,” Michel said. “We just had all these tables finished and I love them.”

Indeed, an array of brightly colored, tiled tables have been placed across the space, inside and out. Some are dedicated to Mexican lotería, others La Virgen de Guadalupe… They’re a beautiful addition to the space that will likely join cans of La Morena chipotles lined along walls—”She is just so damn pretty, isn’t she?” Michel said, pointing to the can’s iconic portrait—and the soon-to-be colored bricks.

“We stripped the bricks from that blue color and they are super clean and contemporary,” Michel said. “I would like them to feel a bit more staggered, a bit more worn”—which she might just. If she has enough brick imported from Mexico from her revamp of FUBAR, they might just layer it over the space. On top this, expect a mural on the outside of the building with, of course, lots of color.

And what about the drinks and food at Toma?

“With ‘Toma’ as a brand, we liked it because it’s not feminine, it’s not masculine, it’s for everyone,” Michel said. “We want to be a space where everyone can hang out and socialize after the mess we all went through.”

And that will be extended into the offerings.

Krymis and his team are pretty certain of one thing about what Toma will offer. They aren’t aiming to lift an elevated restaurant from the dead in the space. Instead, they insist that DTLB needs places where someone visits multiple times a week rather once every few months—and in all frankness, he is right. Downtown is an essential cog for the entire city but both its neighborhood residents and citywide residents need to have more casual options where a bill for two won’t always been over $100.

“There should be a place in Downtown that has pitchers, that has shareables, that has an extensive happy hour—that’s a hangout more than an elevated space that is held off for special occasions,” Jay said. “Not a club, not hyper-food-focused space; more like a neighborhood bar with good bites that you love coming to over and over.”

¡Toma! will be located at 301 The Promenade N. and they are expected to be open between July and August.

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.

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