Open Bar

The Press Room

Year opened 1995

Owner James “Raff” Rafferty (born in Manchester, England)

Distinguishing features Next door to the Santa Barbara News-Press. Live soccer—excuse us, football—from England and Europe in the mornings. An exhibition on the first Thursday of every month by local artists, whose work, all of which is for sale, adorns the walls.

Who drinks here Soccer fans, sports writers, and locals trying to avoid the tourists and college students.

Signature drink The English Channel: 1 oz Hendrick’s gin; 1/2 oz St. Germain; 1/2 oz Pimm’s; splash of Sprite; splash of Sweet & Sour; fresh lemon juice. Serve in a martini glass.

Off the record Framed front pages of the News-Press marking historic local events, such as the 1925 earthquake, used to hang on the walls. But the pages are gone, as are numerous News-Press reporters who used to hang out at the bar before they were fired or driven away by Wendy McCaw, the paper’s content-meddling, union-busting owner. McCaw bought the paper in 2000, and over the next several years her clashes with the newsroom produced lawsuits, a child-pornography investigation, an SPJ “Ethics in Journalism” award for newsroom staffers who stood up to her, and a documentary called Citizen McCaw.

On the record John Zant, a long-time sports columnist at the News-Press before he fled to the Santa Barbara Independent in 2007, attributes the area media’s “exceptional” coverage of soccer—often a second-class citizen in American sports pages—to the bar’s enthusiastic embrace of the game.

Nicknames The unofficial British consulate.

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.