Reviewed by Jeff Walker

My Bar Standard – Busby’s (Santa Monica)

Visited: Saturday night – April 19, 2008

Location: 2536 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA 90291 (map)(link)
Phone: 310-577-3741

With DJs, attractive crowds, and an upscale, if small location, The Garter continues the Westside renaissance towards a more sophisticated nightlife that still manages to avoid the hassles and costs of Hollywood.

Deeper Insights:

Unless you know where you are going, it is easy to drive past The Garter. There is no sign and the place is only distinguished by a small red carpet leading through a metallic corrugated fence into a non-descript building. Once inside, you may think you are on the set of David Lynch’s newest film. Red walls are adorned with pin-up pics and dim, antique-style lights, creating an almost seedy, speakeasy feel.

The Garter is essentially one large room with a bar, pool table, limited seating, and small dance floor. It feels cozy, but a bit over-crowded past 11 pm. This is only made worse by the main walkway forcing you to walk through crowds (shades of LAX – Vegas), dancers spilling into the bar area, and the slow bathroom line snaking out to the bar. Still, the compact environment is conducive to socializing with attractive Westsiders whether on the dance floor, by the bar, or on the patio.

Overall, The Garter is a good in-between place when compared to nearby nightspots. It is nicer and more lounge-like than Sports Harbor or Brennan’s, has the dancing that Beechwood lacks, and is cheaper than Air Conditioned, while still featuring the same funk and old school hip-hop music.


Attire: Casual, but stylish – collared shirts, nicer T-shirts, chic hoodies, jeans. Ladies just have to look nice and you won’t feel out of place or underdressed.

Attitude: Aims for a laid-back Westside lounge, but the DJ, bottle service, and some full-on-themselves people bring a club vibe.

Bar/Bartenders: 1 bar with four bartenders at peak hours. Two guy bartenders and two girl bartenders who were attractive, friendly, and served quickly. A lot of people crowd around the bar, so if you can make your way through, expect 3-5 minutes to get your drink.

Bathrooms: Head straight back to the left and there are three bathrooms. One co-ed, one for men, and one for the ladies. Each only fits one at a time. The men’s bathroom is stylish – lots of black and red – and has a toilet (with a seat that refuses to stay up) and a lock that takes a certain touch to get it to work. When crowded, expect at least 5 minutes to use the bathroom, especially since girls will often try to use the guy’s bathroom.

Bathroom Attendant: None

Bottle Service: Yes – starts at $225/bottle (Jager, Jack, Bacardi). 20% gratuity added.

Cover: None

Crowd: Given the old school hip-hop and funk, The Garter is less ethnically diverse than one would expect. Lots of attractive Westsiders in their twenties and thirties, but some have an air of superiority that feels out of place. Older patrons probably wouldn’t feel out of place, with the music and vibe of the place. Fairly even guy-to-girl ratio.

Dance Floor: Small square dance floor that fits a couple of dozen people. Can feel cramped at times and the lack of specific boundaries on the dance floor leads dancers to flow into the bar area.

Décor: Feels like a classic speakeasy or house of burlesque. Dim, antique-style lights, red walls and pictures of classic pin-ups.

Drinks: $5 for domestic beer (Bud, Coors, Miller), $6 for imported beer, $8 for mixed drinks (Jack and Coke), $10 for Patron shots. Mixed drinks were of average strength.

Extras: One pool table.
Sunday nights – Wii Bowling
Monday night – Wii Rock Band
Tuesday nights – Ladies night – DJ, $2 champagne, $4 martinis
Wednesday nights – DJ, $3 beer and $5 shot specials

Hours: 6 pm – 2 am Daily

Line: None

Music: Old school funk and hip-hop that veered into more modern hip-hop hits as the night progressed. Digital jukebox available when DJs not spinning.

Parking: Street parking. Valet parking available Wednesday through Saturday.

Payment: Cash, MasterCard, Visa.

Patio: Narrow patio at front entrance with seating. Tends to get crowded.

People Watching: It’s a bit dark near the dance floor, but on the whole most patrons are attractive and friendly enough to go for a spin on the dance floor.

Seating: Stools available at bar, scattered seats and benches by the pool table and dance floor, plush chairs and couches off one side of the dance floor. Private area upstairs for parties and special events.

Smoking: On the patio.

Water (free): Yes.

Related Links (for more, see Categories on the right):

Busby's West (Santa Monica)
Busby's East (Hollywood)
The Parlor (Santa Monica)

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