BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Memories and beer were flowing when Menlo Park’s beloved Oasis Beer Garden served its last burgers, pizzas and beers last night after the landlord and longtime restaurant operator were unable to reach an agreement on a new lease.
Fans of the O packed the place last night (March 7) to say goodbye to the restaurant at 241 El Camino Real.
John Foster grew up in Palo Alto and has fond memories of rifling through the peanut shells on the ground to find quarters in order to play at the arcade. Foster said he saw his first video game at the O, Pong.
Foster lives in Palo Alto and is raising his 14 year old and 11 year old with his wife Monica.
“The kids love it here, our son had his most recent birthday here not that long ago,” Monica Foster said.
Before the family dug into their meal, John toasted the O.
“Cheers, it’ll be the last one here,” he said.
General Manager Larry LaBarbera was one of the bartenders serving up beer, wine, apple juice and sodas to customers young and old. “I have a feeling someone will come in and take over the restaurant. We just couldn’t work it out ourselves,” LaBarbera said, as he was serving customers.
The Oasis has long served as a watering hole for Stanford students, HP employees and residents from Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
Frank Merrill remembers when he and his brother weren’t allowed to go to the O because there was pinball, and their grandmother considered pinball gambling.
Merrill’s grandfather went to Stanford and graduated in the class of ’08 — 1908 that is, and was among the first to carve his initials and ’08 into one of the wooden tables at the Oasis, or that’s what Merrill was always told.
“This is a tragedy,” Merrill said of the closing.
Former HP employee, Brian Heapes, said he’s been coming to the Oasis for 35 years.
“It’s been a watering hole for a lot of people,” Heapes said. “This is a lose-lose situation.”
The Tougas family decided to close the O after 60 years of running the beer and pizza joint because they couldn’t reach a lease agreement with the property owner, the Beltramo family. Neither family has disclosed the amount of rent the Beltramos were seeking in the new lease, but the Tougases said it was too much.
New operator wanted
Both families have since been looking for a new operator to take over the restaurant. The Tougases want to find someone to run the restaurant like the Oasis had operated.
Alex Beltramo opened the Oasis after Prohibition ended, and the restaurant sold hard liquor until 1935. It had to drop the hard stuff, however, when California began to enforce a law that prohibited the sale of any beverage stronger than 3.2% alcohol within a mile and a half of a college campus, according to an article in the Menlo Park Historical Society’s newsletter, the Gate Post, written by Bo Crane.
In 1946, Alex Beltramos sold The Oasis business — but not the building— to Archie Marshall for $8,000, according to Crane. And in 1958, Bernard and Doris Tougas, the current owners of the Oasis, took over the restaurant and have been operating it ever since.
According to a letter in Crane’s possession, the Tougas family paid $140 a month to lease the restaurant space from the Beltramo family in 1959.
While the Oasis has been in operation for at least 60 years, the building that houses the O has a history of its own. It was built as part of Camp Fremont to train National Guard units in World War I and was later bought by John Beltramo. Originally the building was on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park but was moved to its current location.