Club Ripples, Long Beach’s historic gay bar, to close

Club Ripples

Club Ripples, the iconic Long Beach gay bar, and the city’s first gay dance club will close Thanksgiving weekend. Photo: Q Voice News.

LONG BEACH — Club Ripples will have its last call Thanksgiving weekend.

After 39 years in business, Larry Hebert, 67, and John Garcia, 74, have decided to shutter the iconic Club Ripples — Long Beach’s first gay dance club — at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Granda Avenue in the Belmont Shore neighborhood.

Club Ripples closing

Club Ripples last dance for the public will be Saturday. On Sunday, Hebert and Garcia will host a final, private event for family, friends, and business associates.

The  closing marks the second LGBTQ bar that has closed in Long Beach this year. In April, Paradise Bar and Restaurant — a landmark and iconic Broadway spot for the LGBTQ community — closed. The space has re-opened as a skater bar.

In 2016, when Hebert and Garcia said they wanted to sell Club Ripples, Hebert said it wasn’t a difficult decision.

“We’re too old to deal with babysitting these kids,” Hebert said.

Earlier this year, Hebert and Garcia announced they had a potential buyer for the club. The space will be turned into Burger & Beer Joint, a gastropub. It’s unclear when construction will start and when the new business will open.

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Club Ripples history

Ripples opened in 1972, (the word Club was added a few years later), but Hebert and Garcia didn’t take ownership until 1980.

The history of the building dates to the 1950s when it was a gay bar called Oceania that closed in 1968.

Later, actor John Agar, Shirley Temple’s first husband, bought Oceania and turned it into a heterosexual bar-restaurant called John Agar’s Celebrity House. Agar later sold the business to Mary Azar, who renamed it Mary’s Celebrity House.

The location changed hands a few more times before 1972, when 12 gay men purchased it and renamed it Ripples.

Club Ripples

Burger & Beer Joint, a gastropub, will takeover the former home of Club Ripples. It’s unclear when construction will begin or when the business will open. Photo: Ultra-Unit Architectural Studio.

Controversial owners

Club Ripples history is almost as colorful as Hebert and Garcia’s behavior: poor customer service, spying on staff, and penny pinching.

While the club was the-place-to-be in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, in the past 10-15 years, Club Ripples attendance and business dropped dramatically.

Hebert and Garcia blamed their  woes on their staff and competition.

Tabatha Takes Over

In 2011, Club Ripples had so many financial problems that Tabatha Coffey of the Bravo TV reality show “Tabatha Takes Over” gave the bar a business make-over and Garcia and Hebert an attitude adjustment, especially their adversarial relationship with staff and the community.

Coffey confronted Hebert and Garcia and told them that their problems were a direct result of Hebert’s poor customer service and Garcia’s penny pinching.

The Club Ripples sale includes the 5,000 square-foot bar-club, the 1,500 square-foot adjoining liquor store, the property, and all permits and licenses.

The purchase price was $3.5 million, but in 2016, Hebert and Garcia wanted $4.2 million.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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