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01 • 10 • 2023

Ocean Friendly Restaurants Spotlight: The Saloon in Ventura, CA

By jsavage

Since 2013, The Saloon has been serving up local Californian cuisine, cocktails, and coffee in a hip setting on Ventura’s distinctive Main Street, less than a mile from the famed C Street/Surfer’s Point break. Surfrider spoke with Harrison Bell, General Manager at The Saloon, about The Saloon’s ocean friendly and sustainability efforts, including an admirable composting program!

First off, tell us a little bit about The Saloon’s vibe.

Harrison: At The Saloon, we are preserving the rustic nostalgia associated with a traditional saloon — the old western gathering place — but updating it for today’s clientele. We want The Saloon to be a gathering space that invites innovation and community while also providing a social space to spark creativity and foster great relationships.

Do you have any locations other than the Ventura restaurant?

Harrison: Yes! Our flagship location, Calamigos Ranch, is nestled in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu, and is home to a summer camp, resort, restaurant, wedding and event center, and of course, our Saloon coffee shop. 

Tell us a bit about The Saloon’s ocean friendly practices.

Harrison: We’ve been composting on a pretty large scale at our Malibu property for over a year now, and I’d say this is one of the favorite aspects of our business. Aside from making great cocktails and coffee, our dream is to create a space where our efforts to benefit the environment permeate every aspect of our operations. So, for example, we compost all of our coffee grounds, filters, and food waste as well as the vegetable scraps and waste from both properties. We use the hay and manure from the horses on our Malibu property — as well as lawn clippings and other compostable waste — to build a really healthy compost pile. Then, we can fertilize our coffee trees and plant our garden using our own compost. We also use the compost to grow the very flowers that we use to garnish our drinks and create our syrups. To us, this full circle methodology in making sustainability an integral part of the food service business is so, so powerful and we are so proud to be pursuing this mission!

We’ve also eliminated single-use plastics, offer plant-based meals and beverages, source locally when possible, serve to-go food only in compostable packaging, and grow lots of plants to help purify the air. 

Why is sustainability important to you in your business practices?

Harrison: We aspire to serve to our customers great quality food, beverages, and experiences. We also want to be a source of inspiration to our customers and an establishment they feel is worth supporting. To do these things well into the future, and in the most responsible way possible, sustainability must remain central to our business model! Specifically regarding food service, we know this is a special industry—we nourish the humans that inhabit the Earth with the food products that come from it. We see this as coming with a unique responsibility to show respect to the planet and its people by stewarding it, and nourishing them, well. 

How has becoming an OFR impacted your business?

Harrison: Becoming an OFR has been a great way to hold ourselves accountable to the practices that we’ve decided are most important to us. It’s also a great entry into more frequent and in-depth discussions both with customers and among staff about the importance of incorporating sustainability practices into business. Being an OFR makes us think more about the actions we take and how they will affect the environment, since we now have these standards to uphold. It also allows us to learn from and be involved in a greater network of inspiring, eco-conscious partners! 

What advice do you have for restaurants looking to make more sustainable choices?

Harrison: Turning a full-scale restaurant into a sustainable enterprise is a daunting task, but our biggest piece of advice is first to recognize the unique position your business is in to make a huge impact, and then to get excited about that potential! To make a lasting change, we suggest starting small. Choose one area to focus on first: reducing food waste, finding local farms to source from, eliminating plastic, etc. Don’t dive in to all of it at once. Get really good at one piece of this, then keep attacking other areas to build an increasingly sustainable restaurant. 

What does the ocean mean to you?

Harrison: The ocean is a hallmark of our business, and integral to our communities; our locations in Ventura and Malibu are just minutes from the beach. The ocean is a source of wonder, joy, and incredible beauty every day, and its vastness is a constant reminder that the world is so much bigger than what goes on in the mundane parts of our daily lives, behind the doors of our business or our homes. The ocean is humbling; to think that our societal failings throughout history have caused so much damage to a thing so powerful is saddening, yet inspires us to be better every day in our quest to protect it. While the ocean is, in our beach towns, the most omnipresent symbol of nature we have, it stands for more — to care for the ocean is to care for the lakes, rivers, mountains, and valleys not just here on the Southern California coast, but across the globe. 

Thank you, Harrison!

Is your local restaurant Ocean Friendly?  If not, encourage them to sign up and join the movement to end single-use plastics!