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Bungalow bar brings a beach-house vibe to Pacific City

It's easy to forget you're at a bar, in the middle of a dining and shopping center, while sipping on a beer at the Bungalow.

Instead, you feel like you're enjoying a get-together at a friend's beach house.

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That's the vibe owner Brent Bolthouse was going for when designing the Bungalow, located at Huntington Beach's Pacific City off Pacific Coast Highway.

"We really want this to feel like a great house party," said Bolthouse, 46, who has opened several dining establishments and venues over the last two decades, including Neon Carnival, the star-studded afterparty for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. "When people tell us that, I feel like that is one of the highest compliments they can pay us."

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On the outside, the 6,000-square-foot venue looks like a house inspired by the vintage California bungalow architectural style. Fronting the Bungalow is an outdoor patio with a bar and deck overlooking the ocean. Inside are two other bars within the rooms containing rustic-looking couches, chairs and various nods to California surf culture.

All the bars offer a full selection of beer and wine. The Bungalow also sells small-bite foods from Bear Flag Fish Co., also located in Pacific City. As for music, expect to hear Motown, Memphis soul and classic hits from groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, not hip-hop or electronic music, Bolthouse said.

On some nights, bands play out on the deck, but Bolthouse emphasized that the Bungalow is a bar first, not a live music venue.

An exception, he said, was when Brandon Boyd, Mike Einziger and Ben Kenney from Incubus played Bungalow's grand-opening reception in July.

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"My thoughts on live music is it's really just another element to this beautiful house," said Bolthouse. "They're performing, and if you like them, you're watching them. If you're not here to see a band and they just happen to be in the background, they're just another part of the element."

Bolthouse, who opened a Bungalow location in Santa Monica four years ago, said since starting in the event and venue business in his teens, he has dreamed of opening bars by the water. Huntington Beach, he said, was ideal to make that dream a reality.

"As a community goes, I think Huntington Beach has been really warm and welcoming," Bolthouse said. "I spent enough time in the hospitality space knowing that people who live near the water have a different sensibility. They don't want a Hollywood nightlife experience."

On weekend nights, the 400-person-capacity bar can get crowded and there can be a line out the door, but Bolthouse said that shouldn't dissuade people.

"I think we all hate lines, but we've also all been to Disneyland," he said. "I love the Matterhorn, so I'll wait in the line. If you love the Bungalow and it's Saturday late night, there might be a line, but the truth is, if you stand in line at the Bungalow, you're going to get in."

Lindsay Parton, president of DJM Capital Partners, which owns Pacific City, said the Bungalow is a good fit for the 190,900-square-foot center.

"I think the Bungalow is the best of everything that Pacific City is about," Parton said. "It emulates so much about what Southern California is about."

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Twitter: @BrittanyWoolsey

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