North Beach Tavern is an adult pizza pub, as owner Carla Curtis likes to call it. A place to kick back and hang out. A sunny day in the Tavern’s backyard, listening to local musicians and enjoying a slice of pizza and beer, is a peak experience on the peninsula.
And every night is a party. Whether there are two patrons or the bar’s packed for a Mariner’s game, Carla and her staff always find cause for celebration.
Along with a background in IT consulting, Carla came to the Food & Beverage industry with experience on the other side of the bar. Owning a restaurant is no walk in the park, but with help from the community, and Carla’s penchant for creating community, North Beach Tavern has become a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
We asked Carla to tell us more about her experience running a restaurant in Pacific County. This is what she shared with us:
Why did you choose to start a business in Pacific County?
I bought the bar on impulse. I have family in the business, and some tried to talk me out of it while others tried to warn me about what I’d run up against.
I have a lot of experience on the other side of the bar, so I knew what I liked in a place, and I knew that the places I liked were popular. I figured if I could create that space, then we’d have some success.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
“North Beach” is the original name of the peninsula. According to the government, it still is the North Beach Peninsula.
I wanted to open a place that was a peninsula-wide, community-type environment and I felt like that name reached out to everybody.
What was your mission when you started your business?
I want to create a space where someone my age, who was a partier in the 80s, can come in and have that same vibe without the hangover the next day. It’s become a social, community-focused bar and it’s wonderful.
What is unique about your business?
From day one we’ve been a music venue. Live music put us on the map, and that’s why we survived the first two years. Because no one else was doing it with local musicians.
We started out with a jam so we could figure out who the musicians were, and from there I started booking people. The rest is history.
The Peninsula Arts Center and I came to collaborate on local music, and they’ve supported us by bringing musicians in. Now many people and businesses offer live music on the peninsula. We’re getting known for it, which is awesome.
We also accidentally developed great pizza, thanks to David Jacks. He now owns his own place, Surfer Sands.
When you come into business here, find your niche. Find what you’re really good at, take what you have, and double down on it. That will make a big difference.
How do you define success?
Well, paying the bills is a good thing.
But it’s so gratifying to see people comfortable in our environment. Like when I run into them in the grocery store and they say, “Hey, we had pizza delivered last night. It was fabulous.”
And you can’t help but smile when people are having a good time.
I’m also proud of the fact that single women of all ages can walk into my bar and feel comfortable. In fact, after you’ve been in the bar once, you’re kind of a local whether you’re visiting or not. The next time you come in you’re just one of the gang.
How do you view your role in the community?
I’ve been a member of the Long Beach Merchants Association from almost day one and got involved on the board pretty quickly.
In the Tavern, I see myself as an ambassador for the community. I’m always writing on cocktail napkins and asking visitors what they like to do and telling them all the different places to go. Because there’s nothing better than getting information from a local.
Outside of the Tavern, I think of myself as a place where people can come for help. Referrals, references, challenges, etc. There’s not a month that goes by that someone doesn’t call and says, “Can I borrow ice?” or “Can we borrow something so we can serve our beer at this charity event?” There are a lot of things that happen last minute around here, and we all come to the table to make those things work.
If you had to do it all again, is there anything you’d do differently?
I wouldn’t have presumed that the experience I had in other places would help me in this business.
It would have helped me to better understand the financial part of running a business like this, and that managing employees in the food and beverage industry is very different than in the corporate environment. Even if they do have the same challenges.
I came out of information technology consulting. And a lot of what I learned there helped me survive: Negotiating and working with partners, vendors, and people. Everything in terms of my customer base.
But it was very different. I should have reached out right away for local resources.
If you had one piece of advice to offer someone starting a business in Pacific County, what would it be?
I would tell them to talk with all three of the resources I’ve used: The Pacific County EDC, The Visitor’s Bureau, and The Long Beach Merchant’s Association.
The EDC would provide the most business-oriented advice and help people find who to reach out to in terms of money and education. The Visitors Bureau and the Long Beach Merchants Association are great places to connect with business owners who can tell you what works and what doesn’t.
And that isn’t just about food and beverage. We have a large and diverse group of industries here. For instance, construction, hardware stores, etc. can benefit from these resources too.
For any aspiring business owner in Pacific County, here are a few key takeaways from Carla’s experience:
- What is something you’d like to see in your community? Provide a service that you’d like to see more of.
- The power of networking is strong on the peninsula; talk to people and make connections.
- Leverage the experience you do have, but be prepared to cultivate new skills.
- Reach out for local resources. Helping businesses and the community is what they’re there for.