This one hits close to home. Literally.
The city of Long Beach has been my home for just over four years now. It’s a place that for years, friends told me to check out as I bounced from city to city. And I always put it off.
But from Day 1 of living here, it was obvious what I’d been missing.
For people that aren’t familiar with Long Beach, it’s tough to describe. It’s unique. Not totally Los Angeles and definitely not Orange County. Not your average beach town, it’s a mix of all those things.
We’re welcoming to those coming to visit. And we’re deeply loyal to our own. Which is why I wasn’t surprised when I talked to Varouj “V” Shekerdemian of R Bar to ask how his bar/restaurant has been coping with the current times, only to find out they been going above and beyond to help the Long Beach community.
On April 4, R Bar hosted a charity event through its social media channels with a virtual DJ. The idea was simple: give people a chance to dance with R Bar one more night and raise money for local hospitals and elderly care homes. Their original goal was $1,000. In just a few hours, with the help of close friends and family, they surpassed that goal. So, they upped it to $1,500 and V’s business partner agreed to match every donation with 50 cents to the dollar.
When all was said and done, they raised $2,000 and added another thousand on top to donate $3,000 total to the local community.
They didn’t stop there. R Bar has also been working with local hospitals to provide bag lunches to first responders. And as a thank you for the LAFC family and a way to provide more help, R Bar is offering 10% off any order to people that mention they’re fans of the Black & Gold.
With R Bar continuing to do its best to serve the local community, LAFC teamed up with its bar partner to donate two meals to deserving families affected by the COVID-19 crisis. I had the chance to speak with V over the phone to ask about the partnership with the Black & Gold Community Fund and how R Bar is helping the local community in its time of need:
What has R Bar been doing during this time?
V: Honestly, we’re not generating enough revenue, but my partner and I decided we were going to stay open for the community. So, we can support the community more than anything else. And by supporting the community, what we did was order a bunch of toliet paper and bleach. What we did was convert the place into a mini-market and liquor store. We’ve let people know that we’re here for them. And it’s paid off really well for now.
What’s the response been like from the Long Beach community?
It was love. It was totally love. That’s the one thing about Long Beach, the community always pulls together and we’re there for it other. And it shows when we have our LAFC games. For the away games, everybody shows up. It’s like a family. I’m getting goosebumps right now just talking about it. And it’s amazing. That’s what Long Beach is all about. It’s not just us. There’s other restaurants, other people, donating food and doing other things, too. It’s amazing.
And we wouldn’t be open if it wasn’t for the support of our neighbors and our community supporting us and buying stuff from us, too. It works both ways. They’ve appreciated everything we’ve done. And they're thanking us for being open. It’s tough. We’ve made a decision that as long as financially we can make it, we’re not going to close.
As you try to keep moving forward through all this, what’s been the motivation to keep going?
I don’t know if you’ve seen our watch parties on social media. (Writer’s note: Max Bretos and I went to an R Bar LAFC Watch Party in 2019 against Colorado. The match had a weather delay and we both enjoyed the extra time we got to spend hanging out with everyone even though the match didn’t go the way we wanted.) That’s what I miss. It’s a family. When games were here or tailgating at the stadium, just hanging out with everyone. And we had a great season last year but unfortunately, in the end, we lost that game in the playoffs. But we were able to watch our team play for a long time. We were looking forward to this year. And we started off with the [Concacaf Champions League] games and that was it. It was pretty sad. That’s the sad part. Seeing the place busy, full, people chanting, dancing, you know, all of that stuff. I miss that.
What was your reaction to LAFC reaching out to you and bringing in R Bar as part of the Black & Gold Community Fund’s efforts?
Honestly, I wasn’t surprised, but I’m surprised. This is what it’s all about. When LAFC reached out, I said you got it. And I told them that I would be willing to donate about 50 to 100 lunch bags for needy families. And it won’t even cost LAFC anything, it’s something we want to do as R Bar, as family. They’re looking into that to see how that would work out. And I just told them to let me know. We can have the sandwiches ready. They can pick it up from here, whatever is needed. And it’s amazing what they’ve done to us. They’ve placed almost a $100 order and that’s huge for us. Other days, that would be a drop in the bucket but now it’s huge. And even to think about us, I was really thankful for that. That’s part of being a family.
As we work together to make it past this difficult time, how are we going to be different when we come out of this?
I think what’s going to happen, whether it’s the bar or LAFC, it’s like you haven’t been fed for months and months. And once the buffet is open, everyone is going to come out and it’s going to be stronger than every before. Because you’re going to appreciate what we had and how we lost it. With a snap of a finger, we lost it. So, don’t take anything for granted and love thy neighbor. Love the opposite team, even other teams. It’s all for love of the game. We’re all human. We’re all the same. We all go through things together.
But I think we’re going to come back stronger and better. It’s going to be awesome.