Wednesday, July 29, 2009
"We have a DJ here on Saturday nights," says Bonnie, day shift bartender at the Sugar Suite.
"What kind of music does he play?" I ask.
"Crap!" interjects one of the regulars. "Young people stuff. The difference between night and day here is like... night and day."
On this Monday afternoon, the Sugar Suite is cozy, dark, and friendly. Within about a minute or two of my entry, almost everyone in the place -- and there are always people here -- has introduced themselves and shaken my hand. It's an old bar (no one inside knows exactly how old, but the guess is that it dates to sometime in the sixties), but well-loved and well-maintained. The red vinyl booths are slick and glossy, no dive-y duct tape in sight, and there are half a dozen new-looking flat screens hovering above Bonnie's head.
"The best time to come here is on a Friday afternoon," says one of the daytime denizens.
"No, the best time to come here is on Saturday around 4:00," says another. "That's when all of the golfers come in."
"There's someone here all the time, which is unusual for a lot of places," says a guy at the other end of the bar. He's an actor and used to come here after night shoots; for him, an after-work drink meant coming in when the bar was just opening: 6:30 in the morning. He'd always have other late-shifters for company, because "When you work at night and have to sleep during the day, it helps to add alcohol."
The nighttime crowd is reportedly younger, livelier, hipper. It's crowded and busy, Bonnie tells me, but no one who's here now seems to have much interest in frequenting the place after dark.
Another regular tells me, "The best thing about this place is you're safe here." He points to my bag. "You could leave that purse on the bar, step outside and have a smoke, come back in, and no one will have touched it. You don't have to worry about anything in this place."
I've come looking for a slice of authentic Granada Hills life, and I've found it. When I mention that I've lived in this town nearly all of my life, but never been to the Sugar Suite, I'm teased with, "Where have you been hiding, under a rock?"
"Don't be a stranger," they call out to me as I walk out the door, but that doesn't seem possible. I already feel like a friend.
The Sugar Suite is on Balboa, in the same shopping center as How's.