Sonoma County locals with bars in their backyard
Greg and Jen Espinoza fly to Hawaii as often as they can. Their idea of the perfect vacation is sipping mai tais on a tropical island. But when they can’t get away they do the next best thing — they sail off to Pink Pearl’s Lagoon, right in their own backyard.
Pearl’s is their personal tiki bar, a hangout for friends, family and neighbors, just beyond their sliding glass doors. Greg built it himself out of bamboo he picked up cheap years ago at the old Yardbirds’ going-out-of-business sale. Over the years they’ve added personal touches, like a Bourbon Street sign mindful of their 10th anniversary trip to New Orleans, a full-sized skeleton standing at the bar and an old puffer fish hat that sat for years on the refrigerator at Greg’s aunt’s house.
“It’s just like being on vacation at home, bringing vacation into our daily life,” Jen said of the little backyard bar that has become the center of socializing in the summer months.
“Neighbors and friends have brought over drinks for a tiki drink competition, and it has been the watering hole for solstice parties,” Jen said. “Just last year we put a year-round roof overhead so it could be left up all through he winter. Before, we dismantled and re-built it each year.”
The Espinozas are among a class of fun-loving homeowners who have figured out that having their own personal cocktail bar outside is one of summer’s great pleasures, whether they have an elaborate installation with running water and refrigeration, or are happy just to have a simple covered counter with an ice bucket.
For the Espinozas, it all started when Greg, a tile contractor, decided to throw a surprise disco party for Jen’s birthday.
“A friend of ours, one of my college roommates, brought a portable tiki bar and right away, I knew we were going to end up with one,” Jen remembered.
While outdoor bars can be bought at Home Depot for as little as $499 and tiki bar kits aren’t hard to find, a lot of homeowners have found that do-it-yourself is best. Since you’re probably going for more dive bar than luxury lounge, salvaged materials will do.
David Albracht used the leftover corrugated metal from an outdoor shed project to build a backyard bar to contain his wife Diane’s pig collection, which had outgrown their house. The couple previously owned a cafe called Pignoli in Occidental, which led to an avalanche of pig-related gifts. Now many of those little piggies are out in The Pig Bar, a drinks shack suitable for Indiana Jones only 12 feet from their back door, across a flagstone patio.
Albracht made the walls of the leftover metal and a laid a wooden deck for the floor. The bar itself is a wood frame with metal siding and a slab of marble, left over from a job, as the counter.
“It’s just such a focal point. People come in and stop short when they see it,” said Diane. “It’s a real conversation piece. Our grandkids just adore it. We have to keep them from turning it into a playhouse. They love eating lunch out there.”
It is the second bar for the Albrachts. In the front of their home is a Texas country-style bar, outfitted with an old cash register and cowboy collectibles like an oxen harness.