Family Dining, Sports Bar & Live Entertainment

Now in its fifth year of operation the OC Tavern has kept up with current trends, surviving a poor economy and the woes that tend to follow restaurants and bars after their initial year of operating. According to CEO of OC Tavern Michael Merrian, he credits a majority of the success to his staff. “I mainly built the foundation but they are the ones keeping it going, I had the vision but they are the ones that have helped me implement it.”

In March of 2007 Merrian opened the OC Tavern with the idea that he would provide something for everyone. Lots of flat screen TV’s playing sports, a great bar, delicious food, entertainment for the kids and his personal favorite, live music. However, having to stay ahead of the curve Merrian wanted another element to add to his operation.
Two years ago the OC Tavern became the first of its kind to offer off-track wagering for horse racing in California. It took 16 months to obtain the permit from the city but Merrian said it was well worth the wait. Since providing the off-track wagering the Tavern has more than a hundred patrons extra a day and their feedback has been positive.

“Off-site wagering is a big part of why OC Tavern is still around. Knowing that the economy was down we needed something special that made us stand out against the other places to get people in the door,” Merrian said.
While the in-house feedback has always been positive in regards to service and quality of food and beverage, Merrian noticed that around town he would meet quite a few locals that had never been to his establishment.
Whenever I say, “I’m the proud owner of OC Tavern. Have you ever been?” They always say, “Oh no, nothing’s ever made it there.” I tell them, “Well, we’re going on six years — you should come down and check it out.”

With the wide-spread use of web-based user review sites, potential customers are more educated now then ever. This is why its crucial for restaurants to stay ahead of the curve by taking a look at what’s not working and fixing it. Whether it’s a promotion, food or beverage item or staff, owners and management need to stay on top of the trends. The OC Tavern offers an American Grill menu that includes: burgers, pizzas, pastas, salads and fresh seafood. Merrian understands the importance of staying ahead of the curve and has been reconsidering certain menu items. In January he is excited to launch a new menu that will add some new fresh additions.

“We’ve got to stay ahead of the curve and have items on the menu that make the customers say, “Wow, this is good. We’ve got to come back for this!”

While Merrian boasts about the success of the off-track wagering and his new menu, his eyes never gleamed brighter then when talking about his passion for providing a music venue for the up and coming musicians. The same room that is used for the off-track wagering is converted in less than 20 minutes to a concert hall. “It always blows me away when people ask if we still do live music, it’s never been a question for me, I’d never stop doing live music, the horse races are just for the day business.”

Merrian personally responds to emails daily in regards to new acts as he looks for bands that provide a strong energy and showcase their love for music. The venue has consistently brought strong acts to the stage, some of which have gone on to perform on larger stages such as, Revolution and the Shys. While these bands with name recognition can fill the room, it takes a combined effort on behalf of Merrian and the lesser known bands to get people in the door. “We’re different from other venues because we don’t have a built in crowd for the music, and no one wants to play to an empty room so we stress the importance to the bands to help promote a show,” Merrian said.

The idea for the OC Tavern was to have a little something for everyone, and what Merrian and his staff have been able to create is a one-stop location for a whole experience of going out. Dinning followed by a concert or dancing to a live DJ at night, lunch with the family and some friendly horse racing wagering with a game room for the kids. Walls of TV’s glowing with the most current sporting events and friendly service was Merrian’s dream and nearly six years later the operation has survived some difficult times by staying ahead of the curve.

OC Tavern
2369 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente


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