In early August, Champ City Bar & Lounge shut down. The Inglewood bar’s status was shrouded in mystery until it reopened on August 9 with a handful of prominent restaurant owners from South LA’s restaurant community. That group includes Bleu Kitchen and Taco Mell, who signed on to breathe some new life into the neighborhood bar that opened in February 2020.
Champ City’s new owner roster now includes original owner and Bravo TV’s Married To Medicine cast member Lia Dias, as well as Taco Mell’s Jermelle Henderson, and Bleu Kitchen’s Calvin Johnson. Johnson and Henderson are part of the self-described Foodminati restaurant group and represent two-thirds ownership at Westchester’s popular Court Cafe. The three put their heads together with a contractor and applied paint, new light fixtures, and TVs, and added fresh cocktails while amping up the menu. Notably, the whole conversion took place in one week. “The bar wasn’t as busy as it used to be, but we saw the potential,” says Johnson. “It needed a facelift and a new program. It looks totally different.”
Bars have been some of the hardest hit businesses since the pandemic hit, especially the few in Los Angeles that are Black-owned. Factor in that Champ City opened less than a month before March 2020, and bars faced harsh restrictions on operations during peak COVID-19 months; both added to its challenges. The new partnership will likely provide a boost in this section of Inglewood, along with Champ City’s one-and-a-half mile proximity to SoFi Stadium.
Johnson developed a food menu that can be turned out from a small kitchen, offering truffle parmesan wings, oxtail mac and cheese chili bites, chicken taquitos, pastrami on a toasted Italian roll with Monterey jack, shrimp ceviche, and a gumbo gouda dip inspired by Bleu Kitchen’s fast-selling food truck item: pot pies.
Roosterfish’s Julian Garroway Jr. and longtime LA bartender Robert Bahena put together cocktails, such as the Inglewood tea, a hefty cocktail with vodka, tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and grenadine. Plus, the Sunni sidecar is a boozy tribute to Johnson’s wife, Sunni. The team also added a new hookah provider and valet parking, and adjusted Champ City’s dress code to skew upscale. Johnson says there’s more on the way. “We’re still not done,” he says. “It’s in the building stage for new people to support.”
The partners will adjust hours to accommodate those attending concerts, NFL games, or most events at SoFi and YouTube Theater. Check Instagram for hours, but count on Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.