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The Possible Interior of O’Hara’s Pub from “Bad Santa”

Jan 6th, 2014 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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As I mentioned in last Tuesday’s post, thanks to fellow stalker Owen, of the When Write Is Wrong blog, I am fairly certain that I have managed to find the bar that was used as the interior of O’Hara’s Pub in the 2003 comedy Bad Santa.  When Owen heard about my quest to track down the location a couple of weeks ago, he contacted a few of the movie’s crew members in the hopes that they could provide some assistance.  One did, informing him that the interior was a bar on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica “near the beach.”  Once I heard that, my thoughts immediately went to Scarboni New York Lobster & Steak House – a now defunct restaurant formerly located at 312 Wilshire that I had visited for a brief moment a few years prior.  Sadly, the place has since been completely remodeled, which is why I cannot be certain that it was the spot used in Bad Santa.  I still ran right out to stalk it, though, while the GC and I were in L.A. two weekends ago.

The structure that once housed Scarboni was designed by legendary architect Paul Revere Williams in 1928. The two-story, Spanish Colonial Revival-style edifice, which features Plateresque detailing and is known as the Edwin Building, was constructed by the H.W. Baum Company at a cost of $100,000.  At the time of its inception, it housed three lower-level retail storefronts (which have since been combined into one large space) and eleven upstairs offices.  In 2008, the Edwin Building was declared a Santa Monica Historic Landmark, protecting the exterior from any future alteration.  The interior, though, boasts no such protection, unfortunately.

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In the ’80s, the first floor of the Baldwin Building was occupied by a restaurant named the Darwin.  It closed in 1988 and was subsequently taken over in 1992 by new owners, who established Italian eatery Pentola Taverna at the site.   (While The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations states that the building’s lower level housed a restaurant named Vesuvio’s Ristorante in the early ’90s, I believe that information is incorrect.  I am fairly certain that from 1988 through 1992 the space remained vacant.)  Little of the interior was changed upon Pentola’s opening because, as Taverna owner Blaine Ivy stated of the Darwin, “They cut down half the rain forest for the wood in that place, so that will remain largely intact.  We just want to lighten it up.”  LOL  A March 1993 Los Angeles Times article described Taverna as such: Part trendy pasta joint and part classic chop house, Pentola looks like a remake of the wood-paneled restaurants of the ’40s–a ’90s version of Musso and Frank or Chicago’s bustling Berghoff.  According to that same article, the property boasted two bars – “the main one seemingly a mile long, the other tucked into a corner of the restaurant.  Both are ornate, old-fashioned and crammed on a Saturday night.”  It is the main, seemingly-mile-long bar that I believe was featured in Bad Santa.  You can see a photograph of Pentola’s interior here.  Sadly, the main bar is not shown in the image, though – nor anywhere else online, maddeningly enough.  It is due to that fact that I cannot say for certain that the property was where Bad Santa was filmed.

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Sometime in 2006, after Pentola Taverna closed its doors, Scarboni New York Steak & Lobster House opened in its place.  The new tenants remodeled the site a bit and Chowhound commenter robertholtz had this to say, “The booths are a little tight and the decor has yet to be broken in.  This style needs the grit of time to earn its charm; right now it sometimes feels like you’re on a movie set instead of a real location.  Ironic, considering that was how Pentola was often used.”  Love it!  You can see some photographs of the old Scarboni interior here.  Once again, the main bar is, unfortunately, not shown.  The Grim Cheaper and I actually ventured into Scarboni back in 2006 to grab a drink, but he took one look at the prices and nixed the idea.  Sadly, because of the way the restaurant was set up, I only caught a glimpse of the smaller bar – not the bar that I believe was used in Bad Santa.

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Scarboni was shuttered after a scant 11 months and when new tenants took over, they gutted the interior to make room for a restaurant named Riva.   Along with the complete dismantling, the space was also made smaller in order to add a second, rear dining room.  Riva didn’t last long, either, though (I swear, the space is cursed), and shortly after its closing, the Riva owners opened a place named Fraiche at the site.  Fraiche subsequently closed in December 2012 and the site has remained vacant ever since.  The current state of the interior is pictured below.  As you can see, it is a sad shadow of its former self.  You can check out some photographs of Fraiche’s interior from the time that it was still in operation here.

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In Bad Santa, I believe that Pentola Taverna was the bar where Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) lamented over his hatred for Christmas.  And I should mention here that I was not a fan of Bad Santa - not even remotely.  I was a fan of that gorgeous wood-paneled bar, though, and so badly wanted to see it in person.  I cannot express how heartbroken I am that it is now gone.  Why on earth would someone gut such a gorgeous interior?  Who purchases something like that and thinks, yeah, let’s get rid of it and start fresh?

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As luck would have it, the GC and I randomly decided to watch the 2000 flick Coyote Ugly a couple of nights before Christmas and I just about fell over when I spotted what I am fairly certain was the Bad Santa bar in the scene in which Lil (Maria Bello) tried to offer Violet (Piper Perabo) her old job back.  The white tile flooring and slatted wooden chairs at the Coyote Ugly bar match up to those of the bar from Bad Santa.

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As do the cabinets and drawers behind the bar;

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as well as the antique cash register, wooden beams flanking it, and mirrored shelving.

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At the time that we watched Coyote Ugly, I was not at all certain that Pentola Taverna was the spot used in Bad Santa, so I was floored when I spotted a backwards view of a restaurant name in the window of the Coyote Ugly bar.  Using Picasa, I flipped one of the screen captures I had made and, sure enough, the loopily-written “P” visible in the window was a perfect match to the “P” in Pentola Taverna’s former logo.  Woot woot!  (I got the below photograph of the Taverna exterior from the Edwin Building’s City Landmark Assessment Report.)

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Thanks to a commenter named Stewart on the Santa Monica Mirror website, I learned that the Pentola Taverna space (while it was vacant, I’m assuming) was where Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) told Capt. Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon) that he had managed to find Lt. Col. Matthew Andrew Markinson (J.T. Walsh) in the 1992 flick A Few Good Men (one of my all-time favorites).  The main bar is visible in the scene, but too little of it is shown to be able to say with complete certainty that it is the same bar from Bad Santa.

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Pentola Taverna was also featured in the opening scene of 1995′s Get Shorty, in which Ray ‘Bones’ Barboni (Dennis Farina) stole Chili Palmer’s (John Travolta) $379 black leather jacket.  The western portion of the restaurant, where the smaller bar was located, was the main area used in the scene.

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At one point, Chili does wander over to the eatery’s eastern side and a limited view of the main bar is shown.  Unfortunately, yet again, not enough of it is visible to be able to determine with 100% certainty that it was the same spot that appeared in Bad Santa.  If anyone out there ever visited the Darwin, Pentola Taverna or Scarboni and can give me a definite answer either way, please let me know.

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The Art Deco-style buildings across the street from the Pentola Taverna space were also shown in the scene.

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For more stalking fun, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Los Angeles magazine online.  And you can check out my other blog, The Well-Heeled Diabetic, here.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The interior of the Bad Santa bar was most likely the now defunct Pentola Taverna, which was formerly located at 312 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.  The space is currently vacant, but most recently housed a restaurant named Fraiche.

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2 comments

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  1. Grandber says:

    Very Cool! I like it outside too.

  2. Richard Yokley says:

    What is fun and rewarding that in searching for one movie you find three others – cool


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