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SOCIAL CLIMES / UP ALL NIGHT

Dusting Off a Favorite Hangout

September 13, 1996|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Pitcher House is the kind of bar that served beer to the parents of Generation X back in the '60s and today serves brews to the Xers.

The no-frills watering hole was best known for its wacky memorabilia, like the sign that reads "Watching the Bullwinkle Show Helps Fight Communism" or the license plates from North Dakota and Arizona that cover the ceiling and walls. And the Hermosa Beach bar was also known for its limited drink selection since Budweiser was the only thing served for 46 years.

But all that has changed. Gary Cullen, who goes by his nickname "Tootie McGunther," purchased the bar three months ago and gave all the knickknacks a good dusting.

Some of the decor didn't make it. The grass skirt that hung around the moose head fell apart when moved, and some of the sports pennants disintegrated. A few of the old signs and posters, brought in by customers over the years, were in no shape to keep.

But much of the old junk remains. The life vest that regular Larry Keating brought in a couple years back still hangs on the wall, as do the '70s platform shoes, a Hermosa Beach Garden Club sign from 1967 and several green freeway exit signs.

The other big change: The spacious bar now serves more than Bud. Domestic and imported beers come on draft and in the bottle, and wine has been added.

Regulars at this neighborhood tavern, an old brick building built in 1922, are a little leery of the change. This is their hangout and it's off the beaten path in Hermosa Beach, away from Pier Avenue and its chic new clubs.

The Pitcher House is the kind of place where you can wear jeans, a T-shirt and slippers, and get a pool table without too much of a wait. Regulars see their bar as the last of a dying breed.

"This is my hangout," says Terry Bell of Redondo Beach. "This bar is the last of the smoky dungeons on the West Coast."

Despite the changes, McGunther says the nuts and bolts of the bar remain. There is still plenty of memorabilia and room for more. And the old staff is still the same.

Chief bartender Bob Connery has been serving up beer behind the old wood counter for 15 years and goes about his business as if nothing has changed. He doubles as deejay most nights, popping tapes into an old tape deck.

His partner behind the bar, Celeste Carbone, knows the routine. She does the hip-shaking part of the dance while serving up beer. Together the two of them prove that some things, like the friendly atmosphere, will always stay the same.

*

* Where: The Pitcher House, 142 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach; (310) 374-0626.

* When: Daily, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.

* Cost: Pitcher of domestic beer (60 ounces), $6.25; imported beer, $9.50. Wine, $2.25 by the glass.

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