George Sabbagh, 74, passed away Christmas Eve joining a long list of other well-respected Long Beach residents who died in 2016. Photo posted to K.C. Branaghan's Facebook
Dour news sliced through the cheer-filled air over the holiday weekend in Long Beach, with the death of two Long Beach luminaries.
Fred Khammar, the 69-year-old owner of the Alfredo’s Beach Club empire, passed away last Friday evening after suffering a sudden heart attack. News of Khammar’s death was quickly followed by another somber announcement via social media that Naples restaurateur George Sabbagh had perished Saturday morning, reportedly in a drowning incident.
Sabbagh owned and operated K.C. Branaghan’s Irish Pub in Naples after a previous stint as an apparel contractor for the surf brand Ocean Pacific. He opened Branaghan’s in 2007 and had been a staple in the community and the small business circuit since that time.
Sabbagh was 74.
An outpouring love and disbelief quickly spread online as community members and politicians quickly expressed their condolences upon hearing the news of their sudden deaths. Both men were remembered for their generosity and love of the city they called home.
“Fred has been a friend and supporter for as long as I've been in Long Beach,” Mayor Robert Garcia wrote earlier this week. “He was an incredible business man, a great city partner, and he did a lot for our coast and beaches. George was a successful [restaurateur], small business owner, and was a great leader for Naples and Long Beach.”
Councilwoman Suzie Price remembered Sabbagh as a strong supporter of her 2014 campaign for the city’s Third District seat, noting he “stood tall” in backing her run while many other bar owners in the area supported her opponents.
“George believed in me when many others did not. He supported me through the election and always encouraged me to be myself and to not be discouraged,” Price said. “Through the years, George has become a close friend to my whole family. This loss will have a lasting impact on all of us.”
K.C. Branaghans is expected to host a celebration of Sabbagh’s life, one that could happen as early as next week according to post on its official Facebook page. An employee said that a final announcement about the event will be made soon. They’ve continued to ask patrons to share their memories of Sabbagh on their page and relayed a statement from his family in the wake of his death.
“We appreciate the overwhelming support we’ve received thus far, which is helping us get through this extremely difficult time,” the family said in a statement posted to the pub’s Facebook page.
The Long Beach community, like much of the world, seemed unable to escape the wrath of 2016 in seeing its own share of notable deaths pile up before the year’s end. Sabbagh and Khammar joined the likes of comedian and actor Ricky Harris, Music Tastes Good founder Joshua Fischel, former Press Telegram columnist Tom Hennessey, Democratic party activist Eric Bradley, Chianina General Manager Alejandro Duran and neighborhood activist Jack Smith as other losses suffered by the city this year.