Imperial Beach’s Salty Frog bar makes a comeback
The upgraded bar honors fallen military, including the late ex-SEAL Ty Woods who previously owned the establishment
Little was known about the future of Imperial Beach’s longtime bar and only music venue when it was purchased in 2019 by Layne Beaubien, a three-time USA Olympic water polo player from Coronado.
Would the Salty Frog remain a bar? Would it still offer live entertainment? Most importantly, would it continue as a local, Navy SEAL hangout?
Just when the revamp was going to kick off in early 2020, the pandemic hit.
“We were really excited to get started when we got the keys on March 1, 2020, but then the lockdowns happened,” said Beaubien.
It’s been more than two years since the bar on Palm Avenue shuttered, but it’s ready to reopen at the end of April with several elements patrons will recognize. The bar’s comeback is part of a wider effort to transform the area into a thriving gateway to Imperial Beach, city officials said.
The Salty Frog, whose name honors World War II underwater demolition teams or frogmen, has hosted local bands and has been known as the SEAL team bar for decades.
Among its several owners over the years was SEAL veteran Ty Woods, who was killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. He named it the Salty Frog and had owned the establishment until 2011. Local bar patrons to this day remember and honor him.
“When we learned about the history of this place, we knew we wanted to preserve some of that, but also have it become a place for people of all walks of life,” Beaubien said last week about he and his business partner Brynn Nersesian.
Both have given the site, located on Palm Avenue between Emory and 10th streets, a complete makeover that highlights features of the original bar and honors Woods.
An indoor mural of frogmen and a wooden plaque with the names of several fallen SEALs, as well as other Navy memorabilia, are still part of the bar today. Beaubien also plans to hang a large, framed mirror with an engraved portrait of Woods.
He and Nersesian said they have received an outpouring of community enthusiasm over the Salty Frog’s reopening.
Upgrades include a new bar and seating areas, an elevated stage with an installed sound system for live performances ranging from music to comedy and trivia nights. Also included is a lounge with a pool table, shuffleboard and digital jukebox.
“I wanted it to have a very classic feel as soon as you enter and, in the back, have it be like your grandpa’s basement bar from the ‘60s with the pool table, the shuffleboard,” said Nersesian, who also runs a San Diego coffee shop with Beaubien.
The Salty Frog’s reopening is part of a wave of new businesses opening on Palm Avenue.
Adjacent to the bar on 10th Street is Swagyu Chop Shop, a new chain of gourmet beef markets that opened in August. Across the street on Palm Avenue is Jack’s Fire Pit, a whiskey-focused bar that opened in December with plans to offer an American-themed menu this summer, according to its owners.
“It’s an exciting time in Imperial Beach because we’re starting to see this little hub of new businesses across the street from each other where people can eat or grab a drink and experience live music,” said City Manager Andy Hall. “Maybe that brings a music store or another venue, and this becomes the South Bay’s music mecca.”
David Schiffman, one of the owners of Jack’s Fire Pit who owns other businesses in San Diego, said he has noticed “positive movement” on Palm Avenue over the past year.
“Older businesses (are) getting redone, while new businesses are coming into the area,” he said, adding that he has noticed recent upgrades to the corridor.
Some of those improvements are part of the Palm Avenue Master Plan, the city’s roadmap to cleaning up the corridor and spurring economic development by having “better façade renovations on the businesses, landscaping, signage, better traffic control” and making it more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, Hall said.
Imperial Beach is now looking for funding sources to implement the plan.
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