Sometimes you just want a comfortable spot with cheap drinks and no frills. With the slogan, “The longest bar and the coldest beer!” the Aloha Club, located in the Fruitvale district, has managed to stay in business for over 100 years. We met up with Chris Jimenez, general manager at the Aloha Club, to learn more about how this long running dive bar has stood the test of time in a fast changing part of the Town.
So tell us about Aloha Club.
There's a lot of history behind this bar. It's been here for. We date it back [to over 100 years] when it first originally started. The owners right now have had it for about 35 years. And I came in about five years ago and partnered up with the owner. We would work in every sense on getting the place started. So their vision wanted to give new life to the place. Give it a different feel than what it used to be. Like I said, it's been here a long time. So we wanted to try to update everything to just give it new life.
Can you tell us about the Fruitvale neighborhood?
There's a lot of history in this neighborhood. Fruitvale was known as Jingletown, just right over there. You know, there used to be a lot of factories around here. And, you know, this place was typically open from six in the morning until two in the morning. Close to twenty four hours. There was a lot of factory workers coming here all the time. And they used to cash checks here.
It’s a unique place. This is a neighborhood bar, you know, it's always been a neighborhood bar. We didn't want to take too much away from that. Yeah. You know, we wanted to liven it up. Give it a different feel and everything. But we never wanted to take away from what it was.
What was it like before?
Well, I mean, so it's like I said, it's always been a neighborhood bar. But before it used to be really dark and dingy, I mean, like, normal, kind of like 70s, 80s kind of feeling here. So it just needed an update, man. So, you know, that's what we want to do. Bring the bar back up to the times and yeah, and put it back on the map. I mean, it took a while. It did take a while. We did a lot of renovation with a lot of changes, you know, we added an outside patio, so you can get more of a family feel here, and, you know, enjoy the weather. The weather out here is great.
What do you feel like Aloha Club is contributing to the Fruitvale neighborhood?
In reality, we wanted to get more in touch with the community, you know. Be more stable in the community. We work with a lot of the schools in the area. We do a lot of fundraisers for different businesses, local businesses. You know, we really reach out to the community. So we want to be a real big part of the community. That's one of our biggest goals.
And we've done that. I mean, we're working with several schools, there's about six or seven schools around out here and we work with the community council out here. Different businesses, you know, we do collaboration with Ale Industries down the street. So that's one of our big things really wanted to get in touch with the community just really get back to that neighborhood bar feel. You know? That's our main goal.
I think we've achieved that. I mean, our clientele base has become very diverse. In over the last two years, we've been able to reach out to a lot of people. We’ve been able to help a lot of people. You know, we're not done yet.
We're just getting started, but it's a good feeling. It’s something that we're real proud of, and we just want to keep moving and just do more. We have a lot more plans that we want to accomplish here. I think we've made a good place for people to come to. People feel good about it. Maybe they look forward to coming here, they feel comfortable. It's about making a place a home away from home, and we're really big on that.
I got a great staff, and that just adds to the place. They are the heart and soul of my bar. So I lean on them to help me get to where we want to be. I think we've been able to form a real nice family environment that everybody can feel, and everybody can enjoy. And that's, that's one of the things that sets aside us aside from everybody else.
And we consider ourselves a very tight knit family. And ain’t nothing better than a family place you know what I’m saying?
Where do you see the Fruitvale neighborhood going?
Good question. Honestly, it's changed dramatically in the last two or three years. And I say in the next two, three years from now, it's going to be a big change, I mean, everything from downtown is all moving in this direction. They’ve done a lot of remodeling out here, and we got new buildings coming up. Right now they're working on extra BART parking underneath underpasses. You can just go right down the street. So that’s going to benefit us in the long run too. That just gives us more of a walkway here. More accessibility to us, too. So I think it's going to be great. But there are more businesses opening up, and they're really working on cleaning up this area. And it has been. I mean, you see people walking around with their dogs now. Five, six years ago? You probably wouldn't have seen that.
How are your regulars feeling about the changes?
I mean, a lot of them are excited about it, a lot of them are excited to see, you know, how things are coming about, you know, I mean, like, just just with us alone, you know, like I said before, a lot of people coming in all the time, it's always walk by this bar million times and never came inside. And we just want to take this one moment, you know, I mean, we're still glad we came in here, because then they get the experience, you know, I mean, yeah, I mean, I look like much on the outside when you come inside of experience, you know, and that's one of the things that we work so hard on that.
How would you describe Aloha Club to someone who has never been here?
Well, I can say this much. I mean, we have a slogan up there that says, "The longest bar. Coldest beer in town." And that's one of the things that attracts people here. And they never really believe it till they come and try and hands down that slogan is not just a slogan. It’s what we do here. We do actually spend time to make sure our beer is top notch, at just the right temperature.
And I think what sets us aside from everybody else, kind of like I said earlier, you know, we're a real tight knit family here. It's a family environment, man. And you know, it's just about bringing people into our family circle and showing them the time of their life. So I guarantee when you walk in here you won't be disappointed, and you'll definitely find a reason to come back.
Check out Aloha Club during Oakland Cocktail Week September 20-29, 2019. Learn more about Oakland Cocktail Week.