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By John Grossi

Photo by Monique Kuhlman

I walked into Crow’s Cocktails one rainy afternoon in November. Carpet covered the floor again and the layout of tables reminded me of the old days. A regular was chatting and laughing with the cheerful bartender. It felt comfortable once more.

Crow’s is Back.

A few years back, my friends and I would find ourselves at Crow’s quite a bit for a nightcap after a dinner out in Naples or Belmont Shore. For me and others, especially after Acapulco Inn shut down, Crow’s represented a quieter, friendlier, more conversational place to enjoy a drink as opposed to other late-night bars. Dim lights, tasteful music, lots of laughter, and classic drinks. That was the Crow’s I remembered.

However, I’m hardly the only bar aficionado to hold an opinion or memory on this Long Beach institution. The bar has been a watering hole on Naples Island since 1942. These days, most locals remember the long joyous era that began in the 90s under the ownership of brothers, Dickie and Bullets (Bobby) Babian. Those bros didn’t just own the bar; they embodied it. Whether working behind the counter or sitting at it, the Babian’s presence created a “Cheers” feeling to the bar welcoming regulars and non-regulars alike. Dickie, along with son Nicky carrying the bartending torch, ran the bar for many years after Bullets passed away. 

When Nicky tragically passed away, Dickie continued on for several years and then decided to step away as well. He kept the bar in his family, passing it along to younger son Jimmy, and eventually vacated his spot at the bar, where he was a local legend. Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic hit; and Crow’s, like so many retail businesses, struggled to survive but survive they did. Jimmy’s vision was to remake the bar into a more clublike atmosphere that could attract a new and younger clientele which was a new direction for the watering hole. Eventually however the family decided it was best for them to sell their family establishment and find new caretakers. 

On November 1st, Dickie and Jimmy turned the keys over to new ownership, a group of locals who have had their heart and eyes set on purchasing Crow’s for over a decade.

New Ownership

I sat down to interview Eric and he asked if I was drinkin’. “I don’t need to, but I’ll have a beer if you are,” I said. It was pretty early in the afternoon. “Perfect... 3 shots of Grand Marnier!” he said to the bartender. 

“I said I wanted a beer,” I repeated louder and laughing. But Eric didn’t care. He wanted to show me what Crow’s meant to him.

The new owners are Eric Johnson, David Copely, and Matt Peterson. Three of the hardest working and most dedicated-to-Long Beach guys you’ve ever met. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re the group that also owns Legends, The Auld Dubliner, The Ordinarie, Poor Richards, O’Malley’s in Seal Beach, and now Crow’s. 

“This is one of my  favorite memories of Crow’s,” said Eric...feeling both proud and nostalgic. I would often come here after a shift working at Limericks or Legends. And right when I walked in, Nicky would pour me a shot of Grand Marnier and make me take it. I remember his dad

Dickie telling me one time that he hated how much Grand Marnier they went through,” laughed Eric. ‘He must have poured every local a shot right when they walked in”. Crow’s has always been one of my favorite places,” he went on. 

“For anyone who grew up in Long Beach and has been in the bar/restaurant industry, Crow’s would be a top 5 bar in Long Beach to own. This is a dream come true.”

Classic, Not Craft

John Peterson, Eric’s cousin who is the General Manager at Legends, will also help run Crow’s. He summed up their vision as more of a restoration of Crow’s than change. Long Beach boasts places for more upscale, craft-style drinks, but that’s not Crow’s niche. Your more classic working-class cocktails, beers, wine, and spirits will be on the menu at a friendly price-point.

“This is an 80-year-old watering hole.... that has been a special place for so many Long Beach locals over the decades. Our emphasis is on upholding the original integrity of this place and staying in our lane.”

Crows is open 7 days a week from 11am-2am and as Matt Peterson puts it, “If your elbow bends... there’s a spot at the bar for you.”

Looking for something new this year or perhaps a slice of something you remember from your past? Escape, unwind, and make a friend or two at Crow’s Cocktails in Naples. It’s a local tradition.



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