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MUSIC: Ventura County | THE LOCAL ANGLE

The Sporting Life

TVs at Tree House beam in games from around the world.

June 11, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

While not as elaborate as the one in "Swiss Family Robinson" or the one that Tarzan built for Jane, this treehouse is much larger. The Tree House in Simi Valley has managed not only to survive but to prosper for 10 years, a veritable eternity for a bar.

Originally in a different end of the shopping center at Tapo and Alamo Streets, the Tree House moved five years ago and expanded two years ago.

Judging by a large Saturday night crowd, John and Deon Vanderwall's place is one of the most popular hangouts in the east county and delivers what it advertises: games, music and sports.

"First and foremost, we're a sports bar," said Deon Vanderwall, "and sports takes precedence over everything else."

There can be no doubt about that. The Tree House must get a Christmas card from the cable and satellite TV companies every week, since the bar must have about a million televisions on all at once.

The only place to escape sports at the Tree House is in the bathrooms or in the eyes of your significant other. One can watch not only the Big Game but every little game as well, from soccer in Iceland to, perhaps, pingpong in China.

And for those who like to play games with inanimate objects, the Tree House has walls and walls of video games. Name it, they have it--not to mention darts and pool, too.

The Tree House is actually two bars in one. You enter--and there is never a cover--into the Red Room, about the size of your average neighborhood hangout, with a full bar and a stage for a band near the door.

Then, turning left, you enter the cavernous Green Room, a huge space with high ceilings, giant hanging plants and lots of people hanging around.

This is a virtual warehouse of whoopee and home to most of the TVs, most of the games, another full bar, an eating area with picnic tables and even some low bleachers from which to check out the action on the dance floor.

The Tree House has been offering live music on a regular basis longer than anyplace in the area, and it rocks four nights a week.

The same band usually plays on Wednesday and Thursday nights, but on Friday and Saturday nights there is a different band in each bar, with a more low-key group playing the front and a classic rock dance band playing the big room.

The Tree House overwhelmingly favors classic rock bands, probably because familiar songs and liquor facilitate dancing. Studebaker Hawk and the Insects are a couple of the recurring favorites. In time, the Vanderwalls plan to rearrange some of the games and make the dance floor even larger in order to book bigger bands.

For now, one of the biggest bands that plays the Tree House (usually once a month) is another classic rock band, but a specialized one--Imagine, a Beatles tribute band. OK, so the bass player isn't left-handed and the drummer's nose is too small, but the vocals are perfect.

Imagine begins its set wearing skinny ties and Beatle boots, sort of like "The Ed Sullivan Show" without Ed. The band performs 60 Beatles songs, stretching from "Love Me Do" to "Let It Be," with four costume changes to make it all work. Imagine will be at the Tree House on June 18 and 19.

Besides all that music, all those games and all those TVs, the venue has a serious beer selection, and an extensive food menu for both lunch and dinner.

"We started with hamburgers and all that stuff, but we've expanded our menu to include steaks, crab legs and shrimp, but the only limit is our imaginations," Vanderwall said. "Due to the food, now we take dinner and lunch reservations. We have a lot of business meetings in the daytime."

Once it has supplied the Five Cornerstones of Western Civilization--eating, drinking, dancing, watching sports and playing games--the Tree House tries to keep things pretty basic.

The sign on the wall says it all: "No Bad Sports Allowed."

BE THERE

The Tree House, 2830 Tapo St., Simi Valley, (805) 526-5455.

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