At Johnny’s Saloon, veterans, community, charity and loyalty matter

Throughout, there were clues – about the kind of man his father was and what he wanted his business to do for the community, even if that business was a bar.

In fact, Johnny Nosich, the current owner of Johnny’s Saloon — which was started in Hemet by his father, Johnny Sr., decades ago, but now sits in Huntington Beach — still marvels at things apparently strange things he, then a teenager, would have seen his father do, like snatching clothes from the son’s closet and disappearing or spending hours in the garage hammering out some mysterious project.

It wasn’t until later that Nosich – who was previously called Johnny Kresimir, his middle name – realized his father was doing something much deeper than his teenage mind could comprehend.

After his father died in 1997 and Nosich took over the bar at age 20, he began to notice patrons wearing the clothes he owned as a teenager. He learned that his father gave them the clothes when they needed them. Nosich also learned that his father had given people bookshelves, TV stands and tables – all built with his own hands.

Nosich, 40, always knew his father was a generous man but never understood how vast his charitable nature was until he took over Johnny’s Saloon.

And the son made sure that Johnny’s Saloon never lost that special connection to the community.

“Johnny’s Saloon is more than just a bar,” said Huntington Beach resident Hector Valdez. “It’s a hub and meeting place for like-minded people to come together to discuss and brainstorm ideas with the goal of doing good in the community.”

A history of helping veterans

It was 1982 when Johnny’s Saloon opened in Hemet. Nosich says his father named the bar after him, his firstborn.

Nosich described the saloon as a neighborhood bar with a rock ‘n’ roll vibe, but it was also a family and community business popular with veterans.

One of Nosich’s first experiences at Bar Hemet was the death of an elderly veteran’s mother, and the whole room gathered around the bar’s old rotary phone and sang Merle’s favorite song on it. Haggard to cheer him up.

“Where can you see a real outpouring of concern and love like that,” Nosich said. “It happens all the time in the neighborhood dive [bars].”

Much like Hemet’s bar, the current Johnny’s is a favorite among veterans.

In fact, veterans came to the bar’s defense in 2013 when Huntington Beach code enforcement officials asked the owner to produce the proper permits for a sign dominating the exterior of the establishment or building. remove and face a fine of nearly $1,000.

The sign – which is still there today – reads “Thank a veteran for your freedom!”

Nosich wouldn’t say much about the incident in a recent interview other than to say he “followed the steps” that were asked of him.

Meanwhile, speaking of signs, a few months ago the team at Johnny’s unveiled a sign that read “George’s Corner”, to mark the spot where 93-year-old World War II veteran George Roach , is usually seated.

“It was a special moment,” Nosich said. “He’ll read ‘George’s Corner’ as long as we own the saloon.”

Roach regularly attends Johnny’s Veteran Outreach, a program run by the bar to provide community support services and raise funds and awareness for veteran issues. The group holds a meeting every Thursday night at the saloon for veterans to meet and share stories.

The program was started by Tim Nabors and Felix Alvarez. Alvarez has worked at the bar for about four years; Nabors partners with her in various charitable causes.

“It’s less of a drumming circle and more of a group of friends who get together weekly to connect with other vets,” said Caleb McNutt, who has worked at the bar for about a year.

When Nosich took over the bar in Hemet after the death of his father, he and his brother Bruno, now 35, wanted to maintain the atmosphere their father had instilled, but they initiated some changes, such as giving at the bar a new slogan, “If you don’t like Steak, Stiff Drinks and Johnny Cash…Don’t let the door kick you in the ass!!!”

Eventually, tired of traveling to Hemet, the brothers and their partner, Johnny Marovic, also known as Tall Johnny because he is about 7 feet tall, were able to find a new location in 2003, at 17428 Beach Blvd., near Nosich’s house in Huntington. Beach.

Unfortunately for them, the move did not translate into immediate success. The team worked tirelessly for six months, but no one showed up at the new location, Nosich said.

Then, in the summer of that year, a music festival called the Hootenanny was planned in Fullerton. Social Distortion and the Stray Cats, two of the Nosich brothers’ favorite bands, would play. The team decided to take advantage of the event to do some publicity.

They printed “Johnny’s Saloon” t-shirts and flyers to hand out at the show, and the brothers even borrowed their mother’s credit card to pay for a plane to fly a banner ad.

“The saloon blew up after that,” Nosich said.

The bar has since been involved in promotions for the Hootenanny. Nosich calls it “going full circle”.

Today the bar is a favorite among locals, “a Cheerssaid Nosich, referencing the TV show from the 80s and 90s.

Pizza, whiskey and Johnny Cash

Nosich said Johnny’s has one of the largest whiskey lists in Orange County, with more than 200 choices. He and Bruno named the Old Fashioned after their father, calling it The Johnny Sr., another way their father can be felt within the walls of the saloon.

Johnny also serves pizza. Nosich said the sea bass often sells out because only the best ingredients are used. Paying homage to his family’s origins, Nosich said each pizza is made from scratch with ingredients from Croatia, where his father grew up.

Each box is signed by the creators of the pizza.

Inside the lair, the lighting is dim. A chandelier dressed in cobwebs hangs from the ceiling. Johnny Cash’s baritone voice can be heard regularly on the loudspeaker. A pool table sits in the corner, a cello displayed on a pedestal beside it. The walls are adorned with music-related artwork, including a portrait of Cash with his guitar.

“It’s a fun, friendly atmosphere that brings people together from all walks of life and with different tastes and ideologies,” Huntington Beach resident Ron Sterud said.

“You can have a Vietnamese ex-vet sitting and drinking next to a big company CEO sitting next to a friendly homeless guy, and everyone gets along to have a good time,” Kyle said. Ennis, who also goes by the nickname Howdy Doody. and has worked at the saloon for about six years.

Sterud said Nosich even tried to get him his favorite beer – from Alaska.

charity lives

Johnny Sr.’s charitable donations can be seen in the staff today.

Bartender James Kutscher works hard for the Huntington Beach Youth Shelterwhich is an emergency and intervention program for young people aged 11 to 17.

In December, he led a Christmas fundraiser for young people to have presents.

By supporting Kutscher’s work, the bar has helped raise money for the youth shelter.

Ennis started a charity group about two years ago called Howdy’s Homeless Helpers with Kutscher and Nabors.

They can be seen delivering food to the homeless lining the streets of Huntington Beach.

“I feel like you haven’t really lived until you’ve given something to someone who can’t pay you back,” Ennis said.

Nabors has partnered with Johnny’s for many charity events, including raising money to bring a Navy combat veteran and his wife to Huntington Beach from Ohio to celebrate a honeymoon they didn’t have. may have had because of his deployment.

Nosich said Johnny Sr. raised his sons so that generosity became “second nature.”

Because the elder Nosich grew up in Croatia, then part of Yugoslavia, during the communist era he endured a lack of basic resources, including regularly going without shoes and food.

Nosich said that whenever he told his father he was “starving” as a child, Johnny Sr. would respond, “You’re not starving. You are hungry.” He would then buy as much food as Nosich could fit in his mouth.

The son said having so little growing up, Johnny Sr. learned the value of hard work. Even while running the bar and raising a family, he enrolled in business school. With what little free time he had, he would donate to others, such as building furniture for people in his garage or taking the kids from the neighborhood where they lived to the beach.

“His perspective influences everything we do in business on a daily basis,” Nosich said. “We couldn’t finish university. We didn’t move up the corporate ladder. Everything we know about the bar and restaurant industry started with [Johnny Sr.].”

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Johnny’s Saloon will participate in a 5K run in March to help raise funds for the families of the third battalions/first marines adopted by the city.

The event will begin at 8 a.m. on March 11 at the parking lot along the beach at Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway.

The bar helps promote the race and plans to provide volunteers and a beer garden.

benjamin.brazil@latimes.com

Twitter: @benbrazilpilot

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