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A Safari Bar for the Animal in All of Us

February 20, 1988|MICHAEL WELZENBACH

Safari U.S.A. Inc. aims to appeal to the animal in you.

Well, why not? Animals are in these days, and it's not as if the owners go about it haphazardly, just plunking down a fancy new bar-cum-restaurant-cum-dance club in the suburbs somewhere, decorated with animal-motif wallpaper.

Not at all--although Safari bars are all this and more. Safari U.S.A., a management company based in Houston, does its homework first: demographics on the age, musical tastes and average income of their potential customers, for every city in which they open a new Safari bar. Their architectural as well as managerial style is slick and polished.

And then there are the animals that cavort over everything from the menus to the promotional T-shirts.

Given the success of their establishments so far (one in Indianapolis, one in Omaha and one in Schaumburg, Ill.), there's no question that the Safari approach does appeal to something in a lot of people--mostly between ages 25 to 45, young, upwardly mobile, single "animals."

Sophisticated Setup

Now, California has its own brand-new Safari bar, just off the San Bernardino Freeway in West Covina. And it's a pretty sophisticated setup: three full cocktail bars, two dance floors, continuous Top 40 music spun by a deejay, a concessions stand featuring animal T-shirts and coffee mugs.

The cover charge, which varies between $1 and $5 depending on the day of the week, entitles you to the buffet that is open Monday through Friday, 4 to 8 p.m. The buffet has fresh fruit salad, green salad, soup and two meat entrees, such as turkey and roast beef.

Also, choices not included in the cover charge, can be ordered from a full menu that is available till 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and 12:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Designed by chef Floyd Hickey, the menu offers mostly light, savory viands: shrimp, spicy fried chicken wings, Mozzarella marinara, broccoli-bacon cheese bits, char-broiled Safari burgers and other specials. You can supplement your order from the buffet.

In a sense, the Safari Bar & Restaurant is a sort of fast-food place with a liquor license and without playgrounds and games--intended as a fun, novel place for adults to romp.

Brass and Marble

The decor, besides conforming to Safari U.S.A.'s established theme of African animals and jungle verdure, is 100% first-class polished brass and blond oak, black and white marble and art-glass lamp shades.

There is a dress code, which is enforced. But it's a little difficult to know precisely what it is. General Manager Gary Coburn indicates that while it is "absolutely not" a coat-and-tie code, the doormen are instructed to make sure that everyone is "nicely" dressed.

Let's just say dress slacks, a dress shirt and combed hair for men, and nice, fashionable attire for women. These, and a pleasant demeanor should get you in with no trouble--provided you can prove you're 21, of course.

The Safari is a big place, legally accommodating more than 500 party people. It features a special side room to which you can retreat should the music be too much. The roughly octagonal area features an outer ring of comfortable booths along the walls, tables around the dance floor and, of course, stools around the bars.

Coburn says: "We've tried to create an atmosphere where anybody can come to relax, enjoy themselves and be comfortable."

If you're the neighborhood bar type, the Safari may not be your cup of tea. But if you have a yen to get out on the town for an evening, this is one of the few really big bars that offers a pleasant, friendly ambiance, plenty of pretty people, dance facilities and, last but not least, lots of well-lighted parking space.

A tip for dancers: West Covina law makes it illegal to dance before 6 p.m.

The Safari Bar & Restaurant is located at 2917 Eastland Center Drive, West Covina. For information, telephone (818) 915-6022. For recorded information, telephone (818) 915-6021.)

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