The legend of Legends, one of Long Beach’s most respected and certainly its longest operating sports bars, goes a bit like this: Then-owners John Morris and Rams football player Dennis Harrah were in a bar in Long Beach when the big football game of the evening came on.
Unlike the convenience of cable of at its beginnings and unlike the seamlessness of streaming nowadays, the bartender had to go grab the rabbit ears—an awkwardly wirey contraption catching the signals of television waves—and attach it to the bulky TV set.
“It’s actually quite wild to think about: Before there was even cable, Legends was using satellite antennas to get direct feeds from the networks for games—so when it went to commercial for everyone else, folks at Legends would get the unedited feed of athletes and coaches.”
-David Copley, co-owner of Legends
Determined to assure their patrons that they wouldn’t have to depend on a faulty antenna, they invested in massive satellite antennas that were then installed on the rooftop of 5236 E. 2nd Street in the Shore for the opening of Legends in the spring of 1979.
The result? Long Beach’s first formal sports bar.
While that wildness has perhaps morphed and evolved—there certainly aren’t a gaggle of former professional football players yelling at bulky television sets but there are plenty of passionate sports-goers throwing insults at flatscreens—that wildness has not necessarily been hindered.
“You know, of course, there are games where we know the crowd will be big but in all honesty, there’s still a surprise to it all,” Copley said. “We’ll suddenly find ourselves slammed at 10AM and, well, that’s just the territory of Legends.”
“Get through the roulette and you can get yourself a t-shirt in commemoration of your bravery,” Copley said, laughing.
Copley’s last note refers to the devastating fire in 2005 that took Legends out of existence for nearly two years, creating the (much more massive) space that currently exists.
“People were truly devastated,” Copley reflected. “It was more than just the loss of a bar; it felt like a loss of the local culture.”
And with that loss has come an updated menu—stellar wings with in-house not-spicy-but-tasty buffalo sauce, ahi salads, decadent burgers topped with mac, carne asada nachos…—and an updated sense of moving forward.
Looking around the seemingly endless barrage of sports memorabilia and nearly 40 flat screens, by this point, it seems downright odd to think of Legends as any other space—but then again, no building can contain what is indeed “local culture.”
“Legends will be here long after I’m gone,” Copley said, “and I have no worry that the people will take care of it.”
Legends is located at 5236 E. 2nd St.