First published in the Aug. 19 print issue of the South Pasadena Review
The Barkley Restaurant and Bar in South Pasadena is a place where you can dance, listen to jazz or maybe, if you’re a musician, join in with a band.
The restaurant has “always been a steakhouse since 1951,” owner Daniel de la Torre said, adding it was called Crossbow for many years.
De la Torre and his brother purchased the restaurant in 2012 with a 10-year anniversary celebration planned for this coming December.
Mark San Filippo is a local musician and band leader and has become the restaurant’s entertainment director. De la Torre contacted him when he first bought the Barkley.
“There’s always been an element of live music there,” San Filippo said. They started doing live jazz nights every Sunday right around the time de la Torre purchased the restaurant.
“I love jazz,” San Filippo said.
They started booking other bands on Fridays and Saturdays and, then, they started doing a comedy night on Wednesdays.
De la Torre said sometimes San Filippo will put together bands “just to fit the Barkley” performing music that they feel would work out well, from ska, which is a precursor to reggae, to “old-timey jazz.”
“The Barkley has really been a breeding ground for the local music scene, for new innovative bands,” San Filippo said, adding that the restaurant covers genres ranging from swing to 1960s-style bands as well as blues performers.
Jackie Jackson and the Royal Gents play at the Barkley once a month, San Filippo said. “They’re a great rhythm and blues band out of south L.A.,” he said.
Every month, the Barkley does a swing night. Saturday night, Aug. 20, the Pepper Moons, a swing band, will open for headliner Tom Kenny and the High-Seas. Kenny, the front man in the band, is known as the voice of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
During swing nights, people are often dressed for swing dancing.
San Filippo said the bar doesn’t have what some might say is an atmosphere of usual L.A. music bars. It’s open to everyone. The Barkley is open a bit later that most bars that close at 10:30 to 11 p.m. The Barkley is open until 1 a.m. Sometimes there will be musicians, both professionals and newcomers, who show up with their instruments in hopes of sitting in with the band featured that night.
Also, there will be dancers who will come to the Barkley. San Filippo remembered one woman, a longtime dancer, who recently came out and brought her tap shoes with her. She had recently had surgery and that was her first time to dance again. And she did.
There is never a cover charge at the Barkley. “Even on New Year’s Eve, we’ve never done a door cover,” de la Torre said, though they do require a food or drink purchase.
Saturday’s performance will be from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The Barkley is located at 1400 Huntington Drive in South Pasadena.