Standing room only

Labor of love at The Hollister House Bar and Grill

Bartender at Hollister house
ON TAP The Hollister House features a varied alcohol selection, including 30 wines, 26 brands of vodka and several beers on tap. Photo: Robert Eliason
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When the Hollister House Bar and Grill opened on Feb. 10, owner Jack Barbieri was cautiously optimistic that business would be booming in no time. And that’s exactly what happened. In the first several weeks, patrons flooded the restaurant—especially in the late night hours. Hollister House Bar and Grill has several things going for it, including being one of the few late-night dining/drinking options in San Benito County.

“Business is doing pretty good and has pretty much met my expectations,” Barbieri says. “I truly thank the people of Hollister for their extensive support.”

The restaurant, located at 500 San Benito St, occupies the same building that housed the Pendergrass, a restaurant that went out of business in October 2013. The space was vacant for 3 ½ years before the 56-year-old Barbieri—a three-year Hollister resident—bought the entire two-story building and started renovating it in July 2016.

“The place was an absolute disaster when we took it over,” says Barbieri. Barbieri’s wife, Danielle, and their son, Joseph, 30, and daughter, Teressa, 23, are often in the restaurant helping out in every phase of the operation. “I did the majority of the work, and had some close friends help me.”

Barbieri spent countless hours painting and scraping the inside of the building, a laborious process that took several months to complete. Barbieri says he had no qualms about opening a restaurant in downtown Hollister, an area that has seen its fair share of businesses come and go by the wayside. However, because Barbieri has a strong business acumen—despite never being a previous restaurant owner, Barbieri has more than 20 years of experience as an owner of automotive shops and a toner cartridge company—he knew those skills were transferable to the restaurant business.

Where some people see downtown Hollister as a graveyard for businesses, Barbieri saw a place of vast potential.

“I see downtown as a place that going to be coming back and booming,” he says. “For me, there was no opportunity for failure. I’ve been in business for more than 20 years, and I’m a pretty good judge of what will work and what won’t work.”

Barbieri says his son and daughter “coaxed” him into opening up a restaurant. They’ve been a huge help; in fact, Joseph was manning the restaurant while Jack was away for the Labor Day Weekend. Jack Barbieri says Hollister House Bar and Grill is a steakhouse with a full bar featuring American cuisine with an Italian flair. Among downtown businesses, it has no trouble sticking out. Drivers and pedestrians can see through the shiny windows and see a bustling scene, filled with customers either conversing or watching one of five large flat screen TVs.

The Hollister House Bar and Grill receives a steady flow of customers throughout the day; however, it’s at night when the place gets really busy. With an outstanding and varied drink selection—30 wines, 26 brands of vodka and several beers on tap—customers have an extensive drink menu to choose from.

On its website, the hours for the bar are listed as 1am to closing. This can mean anywhere from 10 or 11pm on a weekday to 1am on a weekend. Most of the time around the bar, it’s standing room only.

“We have those hours—that way I’m not pinning people down to leave,” Barbieri says. “We’re open until 1am on most weekends.”

On the food front, Barbieri says customers rave about the restaurant’s tri-tip salad ($14), burgers and porterhouse steak ($50 for two people). Barbieri says the menu features hearty, rich food with good-sized portions.

“You’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth,” he says.

The Mac N Cheese Burger ($14) features crispy macaroni and cheese bites covered in smoked gouda, applewood bacon and roasted poblano on Focaccia. The macaroni and stuffed gouda bites ($9) can also be purchased separately from the Bar Bites menu, which also includes Fat Tire cheese dip with fresh baked salted pretzels ($10).

An average tab for two with drinks is around $60. Barbieri says chef Victor Villafuerte—who formerly worked at the 19th Hole in Tres Pinos—has come up with a great menu, one that satisfies even the most voracious of palates. Barbieri makes it a point to mingle with customers, receive feedback from them and implement changes when needed.

“I’m much more old school than most. If people are not satisfied with something, they can come talk with me,” Barbieri says. “That is the way to fix a problem—not to go straight to social media and bash on someone or something. Overall, we’ve had a very positive response from people, and we’re striving everyday to make it better.”Standing room only

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