4th Street Vine: A Little Wine Bar With a Lot of Heart • Long Beach Post

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Photos by Annie Merkley


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Do you do what you love and love what you do? Jim Ritson and Sophia Sandoval have created a space to share their loves with the community: delicious boutique wine and craft beers that have been carefully chosen by the pair and a celebration of creativity that perpetually hangs in the air.

4th Street Vine opened its doors five years ago with a focus on helping local musicians and artists showcase their talent. Originally the bar was Sandoval’s idea, she was sick of working as an accountant in the corporate world and used the Colorado Wine Company—a wine bar in Eagle Rock—as an inspiration for becoming her own small-business owner. As the bar neared opening, Ritson decided to leave behind his desk job as well. With his ardent enthusiasm for the business, it feels impossible to imagine the bar without him.

Love of the neighborhood and community along Retro Row where 4th Street Vine is located resonates in Ritson. “To me this is the nucleolus of the culture in Long Beach,” he says. “Long Beach has always kind of been a collective of art and music lovers, or artists and musicians, and what 4th Street represents to me is the heart of that.

4thstvineartsidebarBecause of the local culture, Ritson says he always intended to run a gallery in the space, but with no background in curating shows, he went to Cal State Long Beach and spoke to the head of the art department. He put up a flyer—a call to artists—that resulted in a student group show. From that show he asked the students that he felt stood out to do solo shows. It slowly started to grow and now 4th Street Vine never seems to have a shortage of talented artists to display cohesive and engaging collections of work.

“Music was a much slower process,” Ritson says. “Initially, I wanted to do jazz. I thought that jazz was the most appropriate music here for the space. There are a lot of jazz musicians in town, and some super-talented ones.”

The first band to perform at 4th Street Vine was a local Jazz collective fronted by pianist Clancy Cramer. The bands that have followed encompass an array of genres that exemplify Ritson’s eclectic taste and the diverse clientele of the bar.

“The bar has customers and friends who are not just a part of any specific genre. It kind of runs the whole gamut,” says Ritson.

The music scene at 4th Street Vine was on the rise until abruptly, in July 2012 they were made aware of the very strict rules and regulations that they had to adhere to. Ritson says, “The way that we are allowed to do music here in the bar, is any day of the week that we want, during business hours we can have up to two musicians perform together acoustically. No amplification. If we want to do anything beyond that we have to get a permit from the city.” They are allowed 24 permits per year and have settled on every other Saturday for the bigger/louder shows. Live music in a stripped down form is performed five nights a week aside from Thursdays and Sundays.

“I think that fortunately for us we have a lot of friends in the music scene,” Ritson says with a smile. “So, a lot of people have been willing to perform under the restrictions and do interesting, cool stuff.”

Ritson has always been a music lover. He spent the majority of his 20s and 30s involved in the underground independent punk rock scene. He even ran a small record label from here in Long Beach with a partner up in Seattle.

Some of the local music he enjoys most at the moment he says is Free Moral Agents, Eugene Owens’ ’60s Soul Review, Sawtooth, and White Murder. He feels the uniqueness that 4th Street Vine has, “is a rock ‘n’ roll heart in a wine bar. It’s not pretentious.” He states simply, “Sophia loves wine, that’s why she wanted to open a wine bar.”

With Ritson’s background in construction they built the bar from scratch, starting with a white plaster box and shaping the space into its now modern Spartan atmosphere. With the exposed brick wall and wooden rafter ceiling it’s a stark and appealing environment.  

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“Sophia and I built the bar, and tables, we built everything. But, I don’t think we can take credit entirely for the ambiance.” Ritson recalls, his bright blue eyes filled with excitement, “This space had it’s own kind of heart already and all we did really was peel it off and expose it. I feel like the space was already here and all we did was unwrap it.”

Riston believes whole-heartedly in the benefits of music and art and hopes to be able to loosen some of his restrictions to bring more of it to the community.

“To me, music brings people together. Just like drinking and eating,” he says. “It’s a community experience, and the expression that comes from music should be and typically is totally honest and courageous… To me art is of course also free expression. But one of the things that I like most about art is that it is a historical footprint that’s completely honest. You can look at art through time and it’s a snapshot of what was going on in some part of the world. I love that about art, and you know art is beautiful. So, why not have it be a part of whatever you are doing in life.”

4th Street Vine is located at 2142 E. 4th St., (562) 343-5463, 4thstreetvine.com

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