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A green and pink dive bar at daytime.
Inside Baby Gee bar in Long Beach.
Brian Addison

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Long Beach’s New Dive Bar Hangout Embraces Thrift Store Chic

The recently-opened Baby Gee on 4th Street is a community-focused cocktail hangout from a pair of LA industry vets

Gianna Johns and Daniel Flores had long wanted a place in Long Beach. The soon-to-be-married pair have spent many formative years here, in Flores’s hometown, with Johns crafting her own memories of family time spent in Belmont Shore. Now, quietly, they’ve made their dream come true, opening Baby Gee (a nickname for Gianna) in the former Red Room bar on bustling Fourth Street. The journey has been a long one, with plenty of DIY construction and paperwork headaches — but before all that, Flores and Johns had to figure out what Baby Gee would even be.

Before the pink peppercorn-dusted and tonka bean-infused cocktails — served with honey-drizzled flatbreads and house-pickled veggies, naturally — Johns and Flores knew that they would need to bring the Long Beach community into early discussions about the vision for the bar. That meant patiently listening, then and now, to customers and passersby who want to discuss the history of the important street and to offer suggestions as to what the neighborhood might want, or need.

“That was pretty much the plan the entire time,” says Flores. “We didn’t want to come here with a massive ego. We were always going to get in and, as we developed, learn what the community wants.”

Long Beach’s Fourth Street, home to the famous Retro Row and one of the city’s most well-known bar scenes, has changed dramatically in recent years. Fern’s is now the Bird, Ashley’s became El Barrio Cantina, and now the Red Room is Baby Gee — each previous tenant a once-popular hangout that now offers something very different. Losing yet another old-school watering hole in this bar-loving city could have meant devastation for the area, and made for an uphill battle with new business owners Flores and Johns. The pair received some sideways glances just for changing the business name, even though they couldn’t legally keep the Red Room as it was. With so many Alcoholic Beverage Control violations on its books (prompting the Red Room’s closure in early 2022), officials wouldn’t even approve a license with the same name.

A cocktail tinted orange in front of a multi-colored glass window.
A tall Tom Collins cocktail tinted orange at a new restaurant.
A tiki drink shows a long mouth and wide eyes at a new dim bar.

The new owners decided to lean into the changes and the learning. “As we had the honor of getting to know the neighborhood — Daniel would be painting something outside and people would just stop and converse — we understood that the people here are kind and supportive,” says Johns. “They understand quality, they want it, but we have to provide, [and] without these crazy prices. We make beautiful cocktails, but when we hand a customer our menu, we are very much like: ‘This is our menu and you can have everything else under the sun if you so wish!’”

For Flores, a new and more diverse bar does not need to be inaccessible, just different. “This space is about taking all of my experiences and travels and distilling all that down through the lens of my hometown, Long Beach,” he says. Those travels have taken him through some of LA’s best restaurants and bars, from Bestia and Broad Street Oyster to Tabula Rasa wine bar, while Johns once headlined the bar at the NoMad. “[Baby Gee] will be different — it is different—but it’s still Long Beach.”

On a crowded night at the bar, Johns is really in her element. She crafts cocktails on the fly, pairing Belizean rum and pistachio cream in a tiki mug, or joining rye whiskey with lemongrass and peach for a sneakily boozy punch. The A Friend in Need cocktail combines two rums, Mount Gay Black Barrel rum and rhum agricole, with Punt e Mes vermouth, apricot, cold brew, and tonka bean; the Sally on the Moon is an ode to sugar and spice that’s layered with gin, the French aperitif Kina Karo, white vermouth, pink peppercorn, and Bazooka bubble gum.

Baby Gee’s interiors match its playful take on drinks, with a flood of warm greens and pinks upon arrival. The rest of the decor is a hodgepodge of yard sale and swap-meet finds, including some pieces restored by Flores himself, surrounding small nooks and enclaves for tight groups or date-night outings. Throwback paintings of cats and flowers adorn the walls.

A tiled table with red plates and a big round focaccia and cocktails.
Focaccia, cocktails, and snacks.
A rustic flatbread at a dive bar lit by candlelight.
Adding a drizzle of honey.

On the food front, Baby Gee offers slightly more than the usual bar snacks thanks to a tiny but mighty “kitchen” space — really just a convection oven and small electric burner at the end of the bar — that churns out round focaccias, warm marinated olives, an array of pickles, and more. The focaccia is made by Pasquale Chiarappa of Della Corte Foods in Los Angeles, the same label used at Nancy Silverton’s Mozza, and is delivered parcooked and air-sealed for easy finishing at Baby Gee. The light loaves and flatbreads come with olives or pepperoni, a drizzle of honey, and some chile flakes to boot.

All the small details, seen and unseen, add up, a lesson that Flores learned early during his younger years as a busser at Mozza and that Johns learned growing up surrounded by wine and hospitality in Sonoma, California. They’ve helped to make Baby Gee a positive addition to Fourth Street, and to Long Beach as a whole. After decades of trying by long-term business owners like Kerstin Kansteiner of Alder & Sage and Luis Navarro and Brenda Riviera of Lola’s, it feels as though the core Fourth Street business has finally expanded beyond its former boundaries of Junipero and Cherry Avenues. Gusto Bread and Shady Grove Foods anchor the east at Temple Avenue and now Baby Gee is helping to solidify the western edge at Orange Avenue, making for one of the region’s most diverse culinary stretches.

“We hope Baby Gee is for Long Beach what it is for us: A place that fits, that vibes with the people who come to it — not some round peg being shoved into a square,” says Flores.

Baby Gee bar is located at 1227 E. Fourth Street in Long Beach, keeping hours from Wednesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight.

A woman with her hair pulled back pours whiskey inside a red-tinged bar.
Gianna Johns pours a cocktail at her bar Baby Gee.
Brian Addison
An old lamp and paintings at a retro dive bar.
Retro touches.

Baby Gee

1227 East 4th Street, , CA 90802 Visit Website
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