By Lauren Bray
If you’ve ever wanted to have a beer and watch a soccer match, or if you call soccer by it’s proper name (football), you’ve been to The Press Room.
Located in downtown Santa Barbara at 15 E. Ortega Street, the 850 square-foot, shotgun-style building is Santa Barbara’s watering hole where you can always chat with a local and watch a sporting event of your choice. The bar is filled with flags of different countries hanging from the ceiling as an unofficial World Cup headquarters, has a jukebox containing albums from The Clash and Sex Pistols, and serves cold pints of creamy Boddington’s.
The authentic British pub was created by James “Raf” Rafferty over 25 years ago and has made its mark on the heart of locals. Those collective hearts broke in 2020 when the owner of the building abruptly announced it would be demolished for luxury apartments, a story Santa Barbarans have come to know far too well.
The Press Room at 15 E. Ortega Street (courtesy image)
The uncertain future of Santa Barbara’s beloved pub sparked a film idea for local writer and director Gareth Kelly, along with Producer Travis Vassallo. “Locals Only – The BIG Little Pub,” is a short documentary that showed at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival following “Raf” as he sets up the pub for the day while he explains its long-standing history and how it became a fixture in the community.
The film touches on a theme many small coastal towns in California are being faced with, the increased need for housing. But at what cost? As local landmarks fall and uninspiring cookie-cutter development projects are raised, residents are forced to band together to try and enact change. This film shows the groundswell of community support that rallied around the pub in its time of need.
A free community screening will take place during downtown Santa Barbara’s First Thursday program on March 2nd at 5.30pm, 6.15pm and 7.00pm located in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Education Office at 1330 State Street.
The 38th Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs through February 18. Official events including screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, and celebrity tributes, will be held throughout the city, including at the historic Arlington Theatre. Passes and tickets are on sale now at.