Wednesday, Jun 27 2012 08:38 PM

A kinder, gentler bar

BY MIRANDA WHITWORTH Contributing writer

Goodbye, dive; hello, neighborhood bar. What was once the Pit Stop on Rosedale Highway near Verdugo Lane is now J&M's Bar and Grill, a sleeker, more upscale establishment that has ditched a rough-around-the-edges clientele for a more mature crowd. The new owners, who also run the popular coffee shop by the same name next door, have put their own stamp on both establishments, but their influence is most apparent at the bar.

Manager Andrew Wilkins said that while the previous owner kept the two establishments separate, new owners Colins Rimer and Cap Prielipp decided to join the businesses. They've applied to extend the liquor license into the restaurant while keeping the bar 21 and over.

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J&M's Bar and Grill

10801 Rosedale Highway


Hours: 10 a.m. to close, seven days a week

Food: Breakfast, lunch; evening bar menu available until 9 p.m.

"Before, the restaurant would close at 2 p.m. and the bar would open at 3 p.m., so a lot of people didn't really even think to go to both places," Wilkins said. "Now we have both open during some of the same hours and serve food on the bar side so you can have a Bloody Mary with breakfast if you want or just keep your food in the diner. It's up to you."

Following a five-month remodel, J&M's Bar and Grill is a far cry from the Pit Stop, which featured a weathered, horseshoe-shaped bar with karaoke and cover bands on the weekends. In place of the shredded bar stools is new seating and granite countertops. The bar menu -- which is evolving, Wilkins said -- boasts a selection of pub fare available until 9 p.m.

"Right now it's your standard stuff like sliders and fries, but I'm looking forward to steaks and other dinner options that we just don't have at the cafe because it closes so early."

Wilkins, who co-owned Fishlips Bar and Grill downtown until it closed in December, joined Rimer and Prielipp as a consultant during remodeling and was asked to stay on and manage two weeks before the bar was set to open.

"I had to think about it for a while," he said. "I didn't really plan on getting back into the bar business after Fishlips closed. It was one of those things I knew I could fall back on if I had to, but I have a lot of respect for the guys and I want to see them succeed."

Having reopened in May, J&M's still has the equivalent to that new car smell. The fresh paint on the walls, new tables, chairs and spotless bar are waiting to be broken in. It has the feel of a freshly built Rosedale home with all the charm of an upgraded bonus room or dream man cave, complete with a custom cabinet bar and digital wall jukebox. Wilkins pointed out that it's a major departure from the Pit Stop's decor but that the bikers who frequented the old bar shouldn't feel left out.

"When you think about it, this place is just like what a lot of those guys have at home. It's clean, you've got the granite and the beer, so it's probably pretty familiar."

Late on a recent Saturday night, the crowd began to thin out, leaving a few sets of couples and several men in their 30s and 40s enjoying a night out with friends, away from the family. The occupations ranged from educators to oil field workers, the common bond being location and familiarity.

Mike, Dennis and Wes, who declined to give their last names, are Rosedale natives who have been coming to the location for drinks since long before the bar was ever J&M's.

They enjoy the bar because it's on their side of town and, since the remodel, they say it seems like the establishment has finally caught up to them when in terms of maturity. It's a change that Mike didn't realize he'd embrace so readily.

"It's a cool place. It's not like the other bars around here, where you have to worry about anything happening. There are good people that come here, and Andrew (Wilkins) is a good guy. I used to go downtown a lot and see him so I am glad that when Fishlips closed he took some of that out to Rosedale."

The laid-back vibe is an atmosphere that Rimer and Prielipp have worked hard to capture. Many bars in Rosedale fall into one of two categories: rough-and-tumble dives or pretentious backdrops for the flaunting of cash or muscle. So far, J&M's has managed to remove itself from both while staying comfortably classy. Only time will tell if the new owners' vision will stay the course.

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