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Making Connections

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It’s Friday night at the popular 12th Street Grill in Manhattan Beach, and the seaside denizens of this beach bar and dance club are packed around the dance floor like sardines in a can.

There are college coeds flirting away and hip scenesters grinding under a trippy, psychedelic light spinning overhead. There are guys checking out girls, girls scoping out guys and then there’s Elissa Taylor--a woman who’s trying to escape the gaze of an undesirable dude heading in her direction.

“Would you just stand here and talk to me until my friend comes back with our drinks?” Taylor, 24, asks the complete stranger. “This guy wants to dance with me, and I have no interest in dancing with him, but I don’t want to be mean.”

The guy is a college kid, like most of the young Friday crowd at 12th Street. The classic pretend-like-I-don’t-see-him-standing-there girl trick is a success. The undeveloped Y-chromosome heads back into the crowd looking for yet another partner. Taylor’s friend returns with a Midori Sour. Down the hatch it goes.

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Such is the story of 12th Street. The no-frills nightclub, located three blocks from the ocean in downtown Manhattan Beach, is the most happening spot in town, and just about everyone who walks in the place is looking to connect with someone.

At Friday’s Groove Lounge, where the music is a mix of hip-hop, funk and house music, the crowd is mostly college age and the place is like one big fraternity party. The bouncers are awfully cocky. And anyone out of college can’t help but feel a little over the hill.

On Saturdays, the 10-year-old club, which is decorated with beach paraphernalia (surfboards, porcelain fish and volleyball posters, etc.), reverts to locals. The crowd becomes a mix of twenty- and thirtysomething beach bums who have kicked the sand off their feet to hit the town. The vibe is much more casual. Even the doormen are nicer.

No matter how you slice it up, 12th Street--which serves only food during the lunch hour--has a lot going for it. It’s pretty spacious, as far as clubs go, leaving ample room for hanging out if you don’t dig dancing.

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Scenesters hang out around the bar, which looks twice the size with the mirror hanging behind it, and those looking to get phone numbers chat each other up in the enclosed glass area overlooking 12th Street, where the music is not quite as loud. There’s even a place outside where smokers can get their nicotine fixes.

BE THERE

12th Street Grill, 304 12th St., Manhattan Beach. (310) 546-4777. 21 and over. Open Thursday through Saturday. Cover varies.


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