Since we launched The Terrace Club, we have received incredible support on it. Our member base is amazing and we wanted to share the stories of some of the Terrace Club members.
Our next Terrace Club member has a job that has seen him to help to shape and define what the nightlife scene is like in downtown Los Angeles. A former soccer player and coach, McCray Miller is a partner in a hospitality group that has some of the most popular bars in LA. We'll let McCray share his story from here...
My name is McCray Miller and I am the managing partner of Circa 93, which consists of four bars in the Los Angeles area.
How did you get in the bar business?
I’ve always been in the bar/restaurant business in some capacity since I was a teenager. When I came out here to LA, I moved here for soccer and I just ended up falling back in to the bar business. Mostly because I needed to supplement my income and I was lucky enough to work for some really good guys, Ashley Joyce and John Lasker, who are now my partners.
Let’s rewind real quick before we get deeper into your current job. Tell us a bit about where you are from and how you ended up in Los Angeles.
So I grew up in Augusta, Georgia and played soccer from the time I was five years old. I played all year round all the way through high school. I went off to college and there was no school team where I attended. I played club level and then I got into coaching in the summers and I just fell in love with that part of the game. I started coaching pretty much full time and then coaching took me to some places outside of Georgia.
I actually moved to LA to coach soccer.
Who is your favorite team?
What do you think of Ibra, Pogba and Mourinho all going there?
I gotta be honest, I like it all. They have been suffering in the midfield and I think it could be really good having Pogba there. It’s a risk, an expensive risk, but I think it will be good. As for Mourinho, I have always liked him and I think it could be a good fit. I think the moves he has made have been interesting. I think they are going in the right direction. And Ibra is scoring goals so no complaints there. People questioned how he would do in the EPL, and so far he has been amazing. It’s obviously very early in the season but I am excited about it.
So you are in charge of four bars here in LA. Can you tell us a little about an average day?
There is no average day, its just full time morning, noon and night, everyday.
Being a bar owner sounds like a pretty cool gig!
It sounds cool! People think bar owner and they think that you are hanging out, sitting in a booth surrounded by a bunch of cool people having cocktails and a laugh. But it couldn’t be more opposite than that. It can be a real grind sometimes.
My favorite part of the job is being around people, especially our employees. We are very fortunate to have some great employees. People from all different walks of life and backgrounds. I feel like they help keep me young. That's probably my favorite part about this job. My least favorite part about is sometimes the hours and the daily grind. There is always something that needs to be done, something constantly needs to be serviced. There are problems. Just like any business I guess. It can be a lot of work on any given day. And it’s just a lot of work. We always say it’s keeping all the plates spinning at one time. As soon as you get them all spinning one starts to slow down and fall and you gotta go back and take care of that one. That’s how we see it.
You guys took an early chance on downtown Los Angeles before it experienced this incredible growth we are seeing here. Now you guys are key figures in the nightlife scene here. What has that been like?
It’s been very interesting to watch. When we opened The Association eight years ago it was timed perfectly, although we didn’t necessarily know it at the time. It was the right location, it was the right time, it was the right intersection of downtown Los Angeles in terms of foot traffic and residential and just things going on in that particular part of downtown. We did very well from the beginning. We believed in our concept and stuck to it and it has always served us well. We also made a very, very strong effort to endear ourselves to the local community and we still do that to this day. That was fantastic. I believe our concept and the way that we ran the business was right. Downtown LA is an amazing scene.
You guys have built a brand in the bar business here in Los Angeles. What is the core ethos of Circa 93 as an entertainment/hospitality company?
My partners John and Ashley have always kept “soul” as the root and the main component of each location. If you have been to any of our bars you can naturally feel that there is soul to them. They have a life and a character all their own. They’re not just another dimly lit lounge. There is a sex appeal, there is a vibe and they are all musically driven. That has always been at the heart of the concept of what we do. I think that’s what separates us from other bars. I would say that is the most important aspect of our bars. They all have soul. You can walk in at any time, whether there are five people in the bar or 300, and you will get an amazing cocktail and have a great time.
When your bars are packed with 300 people, what makes that a great night?
Success on all levels. Obviously sales always help. But in my mind, a successful night is that everybody that came to the bar leaves with a smile on their face talking to their friends about what a great night they had. I hear them telling the bartenders that they were fantastic and that they will be back. I hear them say the music was amazing and that they loved the DJ. When customers enter in a good mood and leave in a better mood. That’s what we want.
You talked about soul as being a key component of your bars, but there is also an undercurrent of soccer alive within them.
Absolutely. My partner Ashley Joyce is from England and he is a huge soccer fan. I get a little bit of fun out of ribbing him from time to time about the English national team. Even in the Continental Club, if you look around at some of the pictures and artwork on the walls here they have the English culture present. Soccer culture is so interesting and there is definitely a flavor for it in our bars. Even the lamps on the backbar at The Continental Club - we joke around and call them the FA Cups (note – the base of the lamps does in fact look like the FA Cup trophy). There are hints if you look closely enough.
What’s next for you guys as a brand and group?
We don’t ever talk about specifics until they are locked down and we are ready to open the doors. But we are looking to grow and we will be expanding. We feel at home here in downtown LA, we are a part of the community and we would like to do more here.
Thanks so much for your time and all the best going forward!