Isla Vista’s Hawaiian-themed Menehunes Bar & Grill closed its doors for good recently, leaving its regulars in search of a new place to find shuffle board, free peanuts and $4 pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Mark Tofolla, former owner of the bar, said he closed shop just before Winter Break because it was too difficult to maintain a profit in I.V. Tofolla is in the process of transferring the ownership and alcohol license for the store – located on Pardall Road – to Timothy Yuen, who plans to open a Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon Express.
Tofolla said he felt the time had come for him to move on from this particular business endeavor.
“This story of Menehunes can only be told by those who experienced it,” Tofolla said, “I seized the moment to live the dream, but the time has come to awake to a new reality.”
Riccardo Fundament, the owner of Dublin’s Sports Grill on Pardall Road, said it can be especially costly to run a business in I.V. during November and December. He said students are out of town for almost half of the business days during those two months and the sharp decrease in business often makes him question whether he wants to continue running his bar.
“You ask yourself, ‘Do I really want to do this all over again?'” Fundament said.
Lt. Sol Linver of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol said the owner of Saigon Express will not have to petition for a new alcohol license because he will inherit a license from Tofolla. He said he plans to meet with the owner of the new business to discuss the issues that arise from running a restaurant that serves alcohol in I.V.
Linver said there are 22 alcohol licenses in I.V., while the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) recommends that the area only have 20 licenses. He said he is currently petitioning to block any business’s attempt to obtain new licenses because he thinks there are already too many restaurants licensed to serve alcohol in I.V.
“Right now, I.V. is beyond the saturation point recommended by the ABC,” Linver said.
Fundament said he does not think Menehunes’ closing will have any impact on his business. He said it is difficult to get a business started in I.V., and it takes time for residents to accept a new business.
“The truth is it takes a few years to make it here, until the seniors say, ‘Hey, that place is really nice,’ and then that builds up the demand for you,” Fundament said.
Tofolla said he ran Menehunes for two and a half years and he said he thinks it is time for him to leave I.V., just like the graduating seniors do every year.
“Everybody puts in their four years [in Isla Vista], has their fun, takes a hard knock or two, but then comes the time to graduate,” Tofolla said.