Students flock to historic neighborhood bar


Many Occidental students who frequented The Hermosillo or The York last year can now be found packing into the small, dimly-lit space at Johnny’s, located next-door to Cafe de Leche. This sudden rise in popularity among Occidental students has not gone unnoticed.

“Tequila shots … A lot more tequila shots since you guys started coming here,” bartender Mando* said, laughing.

According to its current bartenders, Johnny’s originally opened in 1922 as a bar and taco joint frequented by father-son duos. Due to the dangerous state of the neighborhood in the ’80s, Johnny’s temporarily shut down and remained closed until 2005. Even after its reopening, the bar has maintained its previous values and style.

But despite its appearance at first glance, Johnny’s is not a traditional dive bar.

“For one, we have fully-functioning bathrooms,” Mando said.

Though it serves liquor and well drinks, Johnny’s also boasts a fine selection of twelve rotating beers on tap and 40–50 bottled beers.

“We really know our beer,” bartender Tony* said.

Johnny’s is also notorious among Occidental students for selling Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for $2, which now sells out most Thursdays due to the increased number of Occidental patrons, according to Mando.

Johnny’s employees do not seem to mind that their bar has become the new place to go out for Occidental students. Mando notes that Occidental students are sometimes even nicer than their regulars or other customers. Still, bartenders are confident that Johnny’s is not at risk of becoming the typical college bar, thanks to their crop of regulars.

“Sixty to 70 percent of our customers are regulars, and that excludes Oxy students,” Mando said. “We have four old-timers who come in every Tuesday and sit in the exact same spot at the bar. They’ve been coming here since maybe the ’60s.”

Occidental student Izzy Hubbard (senior) has been going to Johnny’s since before this year’s student influx.

“Johnny’s appeal is that it’s a ‘local bar,’ and the community vibe completely changes when the hoards of Oxy students arrive,” Hubbard said. “It’s a great place for people to go in small groups, but it’s too small for large groups of people to congregate.”

But Mando, Tony and the other employees are welcoming to all the Occidental students, despite their large numbers and occasional rowdiness. As long as students maintain basic bar scene etiquette such as volume control, spacial awareness and tipping, Johnny’s is happy to serve.

“[Johnny’s] is so close to Oxy, yet it allows me to get out of the ‘Oxy bubble,'” Hubbard said via email. “It’s super fun to go out and make buds and party with new people, which is really hard to do when you go to such a small school.”

Of course, if students do not feel like mingling with strangers, there is a photobooth, dart board, ping pong table and jukebox at the back that are guaranteed to provide a night’s worth of entertainment.

*Mando and Tony withheld their last names, as customers know them by first name only.