HB’s Pitcher House taps out in 57th year

first_img“Everything I had went into this building,” he said. “I’m gonna miss this place.” Although many Pitcher House regulars may appreciate the bar for the sawdust on its floors and the antique decorations on its walls – including a jukebox (yes, hanging on the wall) and a large painting of a naked woman rumored to be the mistress of a former Redondo Beach mayor – the building’s landlord, Richard DiGiorgio, does not have a similar affection for the place. He wanted Cullen to shape it up. “I said, `Gary, this place is a toilet. It’s dirty. It stinks,”‘ said DiGiorgio, who bought the building in 2000. “`If you can’t (fix it up), I’m going to get someone who will.”‘ Cullen said he couldn’t afford to make the changes DiGiorgio wanted, which would have cost $300,000 to $400,000 and would have altered the essence of the Pitcher House. Cullen realized about a year ago the bar would have to close. “I was pissed,” he said. “I told (DiGiorgio) he ruined my life.” Cullen later apologized for his initial outburst. When he bought the bar, Cullen made several improvements – cleaning and expanding the beers on tap from one brand to 12, adding television sets and building a stage so he could host live bands. The biggest performers to visit were Flogging Molly, former teen heartthrob Leif Garrett and “King of the Surf Guitar” Dick Dale, said Dave Moore, who books bands for the bar. Cullen also got the bar a full liquor license, which stays with the building even after he leaves. “I should have known that before I spent my life savings on fixing the place up,” Cullen said. Starting Monday, Cullen will have two weeks to clear out the many decorations, most of which he acquired when he bought the place. One of his biggest projects will be tearing out a section of the bar that has a 21-foot-long snakeskin visible through the countertop. Almost all the knickknacks will go into storage at first but will soon reappear when Cullen moves south to the Upper Deck on Pacific Coast Highway and Beryl Street. Once the bars merge their decor, the names will merge as well, becoming the Pitcher House Upper Deck. Cullen said most of his staff, some of whom worked at the bar before he bought it, will follow him when he goes to the new place. But Cullen said he will miss one person who won’t be able to follow: Tito Carinci, who died last year, started at the Pitcher House in 1983 and became instrumental in helping Cullen when he took over as owner. “Tito was the backbone of this place,” Cullen said. “He was the man.” Another longtime employee, Bob Connery, who has worked at the bar since 1978 and seen it through its three owners, said he feels he is losing more than just his place of business. “It’s more like a second family,” he said, “or in my case, my first home.” Piper Moretti, who lives with her husband and stepson on Second Street near the bar, said that although they have had to deal with noise and drunken patrons in their yard, she is sorry to see it go. “I never wanted them to leave,” she said. “It’s sad because (Cullen’s) a good guy.” Moretti said she doesn’t think her neighborhood will get any quieter after the Pitcher House leaves and Saint Rocke opens. The new owner, Allen Sanford, said he will make his venue upscale and try to attract popular bands. “We’re going to try to book bands that nobody would believe would come to the South Bay,” he said. Sanford said he wants to preserve the historic look of the building, which Cullen said first opened as a bank in the 1920s, but also wants it to include a full recording studio. Both Cullen and Connery said they are sad to leave the Pitcher House but it’s time to move on. DiGiorgio said it’s all just business. “People don’t ever want anything in life to change, but things change,” he said. “That’s life. That’s the way it goes.” laura.davis@dailybreeze.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LAST CALL: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t drink at the Hermosa institution after Sunday. By Laura E. Davis STAFF WRITER For more than a half a century, the Pitcher House has given patrons many reasons to keep coming back to the historic bar in Hermosa Beach. With shuffleboard, foosball, pool and pinball – not to mention the eclectic wall decorations collected over the years – anyone 21 or older can find entertainment if the live music and beer aren’t enough. “It’s a mixed bag in here,” owner Gary “Tootie” Cullen said. “Not many places in this town have full liquor, a dance permit and live music.” But after 57 years, at the end of business Sunday, the Pitcher House at Pacific Coast Highway and Second Street is closing for good. The bar may not be gone for too long, though, as Cullen has plans to merge with another bar down the road in Redondo Beach. Tonight will be the final blowout. After the bar’s official last day Sunday, the space will be closed until late February or early March, when the new tenants plan to open a live music venue called Saint Rocke. Cullen, who has owned the bar since 1996, said it’s going to be hard to give it up. last_img