Gem City Grill. | Photo courtesy of Shawn Spencer

By Shawn Spencer

Most of Monrovia is familiar with the infamous Gem City Grill, located in beautiful Old Town Monrovia. For some, the name conjures up fond memories of a girl’s night out, dancing to one the fantastic bands that used to play there. Or perhaps shooting pool with friends, since there aren’t any other pool tables in town. For others, it is nothing but a dive bar, a local nuisance or worse.

Yes, there has been many a bar fight there. Tragically, there was even a shooting in 2017, that left one man dead, two injured and many traumatized. The crowd often varied from the stereotypical day-drinking derelicts to the local soccer mom crowd, and everyone in between. Let’s be honest, we all remember the smell — old beer mixed with urine and a tinge of vomit from the “blonde brigade” that may or may not have overdone it once or twice. Good times! Right?? If those walls could only talk!

Well, I have good news for those of you not in the know. Last year, long-time owner Bobby Ross sold Gem City to long-time-favorite bartender Tricia Hobbs and her sister Tayler Nestlerode. This dynamic duo has been working tirelessly on a make-over for the tired, stigmatized and dull Gem.

Coming soon, we can expect to see a bright and shining Gem; one that has been very deeply cleaned, painted and polished. It is amazing to see what a lot of elbow grease, a little love and attention and the help of family and good friends has done to resurrect the dying dive bar. For those of you that had fond memories of said bar, have no fear. Don’t expect posh elegance, as the goal of Tricia and Taylor is to maintain some of the classic charm, while elevating it a wee bit. While Gem will be moving up a notch, from dive bar to neighborhood bar, their price point will remain the same.

The smell isn’t the only thing to change. Coming soon, you can expect house-made “bar food.” Hamburgers, sandwiches, wings, etc. The sisters are being very selective and considerate as they plan their menu, as they do not want to directly compete with their neighbors, who have shown them nothing but support.  

The addition of a full kitchen and menu will allow Gem to open during the pandemic for outdoor dining. The new owners still must navigate through health and local permits, but they have the full support of the city, thus far. It is with a hopeful heart that I think we will be open for [modified] indoor dining soon (knock on wood). I know I am not the only one that is looking forward to shaking a tail feather with friends to some live music!

So, cheers to Gem City Bar and Grill, to Tricia and Taylor!  We are so excited to see the magic you two are creating. I’m sure I speak on behalf of all Monrovians as I wish you much success on your new adventure!

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