Dean Acquistipace, left, and Mike Fernandez hold a photo of James ‘Jimbo’ Fletcher, the late former owner of Jimboz Lounge in Santa Barbara. Acquistipace, Fernandez and Kami Millikan bought the bar from Fletcher’s estate after he died in 2017.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

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It wasn’t just a bar.

For mechanic Mike Fernandez, sheet metal worker Dean Acquistapace and bartender Kami Millikan, Jimboz Lounge at 2711 De La Vina  St. was their “living room.”

So when owner Jimbo Fletcher died in November of last year, the bar closed, and it looked like the hangout was lost forever.

Instead, the three friends “scraped the bottom of the barrel” and pulled their resources together to buy Jimboz from Fletcher’s family.

“We didn’t want another cookie-cutter bar,” Acquistapace said.”We’re trying to keep the old atmosphere of Jimboz.”

They revered the man.

Fernandez called him “the most generous man I have ever met.”

Millikan, a bartender, had a falling out with the nearby Tiburon Tavern, and Fletcher hired her. She said she sealed the deal when she smashed him in a game of billiards.

After the game, he told her “OK, you are hired,” she said.

“Jimbo hired me and all of a sudden I had a family here,” said Millikan, a Washington state native.

They described the long, narrow bar as a place where people went to mingle, socialize, drink and play billiards. The tables were free under Fletcher, a perk he offered his regular “lost souls,” as Fernandez said.

“It was like a community center,” Fernandez said.

He noted that three couples met and eventually were married at booth No. 2. It was a home away from home, Fernandez said.

“This is definitely a neighborhood bar,” Fernandez said. “Everyone I know in Santa Barbara, I met through this bar.”

They will open their doors again on Friday. Like a true “living room,” they will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

And the pool tables, just like always, will remain free to play, in honor of “Jimbo.”

Santa Barbara TOT down in December

The city of Santa Barbara’s hotel bed taxes were way down in December, largely because of the drop in tourism related to the Thomas Fire smoke.

Santa Barbara received about $844,000 in bed taxes, also known as transient occupancy taxes, for December, a 26.8-percent drop from the previous year.

TOT collected from hotels decreased 22.9 percent and short-term rentals decreased 80 percent from the prior December.

Air quality conditions in December were poor, and on a couple of days measured as “hazardous.”

Finch & Fork has new lead bartender

Finch & Fork Restaurant has hired George Piperis as its new lead bartender. Piperis will design seasonal beverage menus.

Piperis most recently worked at Somerset in Santa Barbara.

His debut menu at Finch & Fork features half a dozen originals that are reflective of the season, and “his knack for balanced, yet complex cocktails that utilize fresh ingredients,” a news release states.

Piperis is originally from Visalia.

Finch & Fork is located at 31 W. Carrillo St. inside the Kimpton Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara.

Puppet Palminteri

The Santa Barbara International PuppetPalooza is coming March 1-4 at 301 Paseo Nuevo.

PuppetPalooza Central will hold a fundraiser called “Puppets in Paseo” on Saturday, Jan. 27, from 4 to 7 pm, to launch the official puppet festival season.

The event will honor KEYT reporter John Palminteri and the KEYT News Channel 3 team for their coverage of the Thomas Fire and aftermath in Santa Barbara County.

At the event, PuppetPalooza will unveil as a tribute, a “John Palminteri Puppet” that will perform live with Palminteri, a news release states.

PuppetPalooza is a family-focused event that includes more than 20 performances and events; 30 performers at different venues and two park celebrations.

The festival will bring children, families, visitors and the arts from all over the globe, according to a news release. Visit

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.