On Saturday night, Nov. 10, the cars of nonresidents were turned away from entering the City of Long Beach, due to a nighttime curfew put in place to protect this municipality that has seen catastrophic damage due to superstorm Sandy.
The next afternoon, entry was open to all, and a trip into the area revealed a scene as serious as newscasts and word-of-mouth had been already stating.
May of 2012 was a warm month, and the weather was bringing an advanced state of activity to Long Beach that spring, as most seaside neighborhoods don’t usually start getting really busy until the summer season that begins with Memorial Day. One particular day -- Sunday, May 13 – was clear and sunny, and all the hot spots on West Beech Street were bustling from afternoon until night. Shine’s Bar (55 California St., 516-432-9248), a local tavern celebrating its 100th year in operation, seemed to be the starting point of the hubbub -- for although it technically has a California Street address, it shares a corner with West Beech and is more easily spotted from the Beech side. With that specific location, it serves as a lead into the strip of restaurants, bars and clubs that make up many of the businesses found along the 22 blocks of West Beech Street between California Street and Connecticut Avenue.
As usual, that Sunday Shine’s was full of people chatting and having drinks. A bit further down the road, The Beach House (906 W. Beech St., 516-208-8733) was also full of guests, to the point where the crowd was overflowing onto the sidewalk. Music was blaring, the din was remarkable, and although it was only mid-May near the shore, the temperature was high enough that shorts and summer dresses were the garb chosen by much of the Beach House’s clientele – a fashion statement matched by the men and women who were simultaneously packing the courtyard of Minnesota's Bar and Grill (959 W. Beech St., 516-432-4080). However, the patio wasn’t the only part of Minnesota’s full of people, as its indoor taproom was also filled to capacity. Along the curb nearby, flashy cars filled every parking space, sending drivers blocks away down residential streets in hopes of finding a spot.
Continuing a bit further west on West Beech that May day, the restaurant Cabana (1034 W Beech St., 516-889-1345) was also doing big business. Cabana has a large, loyal customer base, and is especially popular for its “Taco Tuesdays” and annual Cinco de Mayo blowouts that draw consistently every year. At the time, families were there dining, every table was taken and the bar was just as busy. Furthermore, this establishment is equipped with its own parking lot – a rare Long Beach amenity – and, as one might expect on a day like this, the lot was filled.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, the Cabana parking lot held a few cars, but was focused instead on a row of tables donating hot food to those whose situations remain dire, due to the loss of electricity or property destruction (or both) – and if anyone had missed this offer, a young lady stood on the corner of Kentucky Street and Beech with a handwritten sign advertising the opportunity. At Minnesota’s, the pub’s yard was also a place where people in need could get free nourishment, plus supplies – and powerfully, the patio was more crowded than ever, as residents came to either assist others looking for help or try to repair their own circumstances. Several automobiles once again surrounded the property, but on this day those vehicles were mainly police cars and military jeeps, with officers and soldiers present for the recovery effort. Down the many side streets where people live, much of the curb once dedicated to parking was now committed to heaps of debris and garbage – some higher than six feet – waiting to eventually be hauled away.
The Beach House was closed. On Oct. 28, the place had posted a photo on its Facebook page that showed it had boarded up its windows and doors in anticipation of Sandy, then spray-painting the words “We Are Open” across the paneling. As of Nov. 11, the word “NOT” had been added to each of the previous pronouncements.
Then, down at the end of the strip on the corner of Beech and California Streets, Shine’s -- the bar marking 100 years in business -- was also open for business. There was a sign at the door warning looters to stay away (several signs stating this caveat could be found around the neighborhood that day), and under the bar’s window, a piece of warped wood was adorned with another written notice: “Bruised, But Not Broken.”
People were inside, chatting and having drinks, walking in and out on what turned out to be a very sunny Sunday, as the temperature outside reached 61 degrees.
Amid the devastation, it seems there are still people and things in Long Beach that refuse to break.