Roselma Samala and Christine Sumiller spent New Year’s Day of 2013 at Patricia Perez’s house, sipping mimosas and brainstorming ideas for the bar they wanted to open.
One kickstarter and a few years later, the UCLA alumnae opened Genever in Filipinotown on March 7. Though the three women still hold day jobs in financial and philanthropic industries, by night, they make gin-based cocktails and serve beer and wine. Perez said Genever is the only bar in Filipinotown run entirely by women, which is also rare nationwide.
“It’s such a treat if you hear that it’s a woman-owned bar, even if it’s just one woman, or three women like Genever,” Perez said.
She added the bar industry tends to be male-dominated, but many women have recently started opening their own establishments. The trio’s liquor license is female-owned – a rarity given the lack of women in the industry and the difficulty of obtaining a liquor license, she said.
Samala said small differences distinguish a bar run by women from a bar run by men. The owners aim to portray accessibility and glamour in their decor, which is manifested in the bar’s art deco decorations, such as geometric patterns on the wall. They also added hooks under the bar and in the bathroom for people to hang their bags, as bars tend to lack places for women to put their purses, she said.
When patrons first walk into the bar, they are greeted by “Lady Genever,” a painting created by UCLA alumna Emily Caisip, depicting a woman dressed in a 1920s outfit holding a drink and leaning against a bar. Perez said the painting gives the bar an overtly feminine touch.
Samala said she drew inspiration for Genever when visiting bars in other cities and countries. Since bathrooms in other bars stood out to her, Samala said she made sure the bathroom in Genever matched the decor of the rest of the bar to make the whole interior feel like a welcoming space. Soft lighting and plush sofas also help make the space appear cozy and non-threatening, Sumiller said.
“When I’m traveling, I want to find a place where I’m not going to feel threatened or unsafe, so we try to encourage that with our staff and with our space,” Samala said.
Sumiller said she and her co-owners collaborate well together because of their 20-year friendship, and the respect they have for each other as well as their staff and patrons. They all contributed their own skills to running the bar – for example, Perez used her background as a restaurateur to attain the proper certifications and Sumiller leveraged her experience as a financial planner to handle its finances.
“Whenever I have something to bring up, I also have to remember that with everything I say I always have to be deliberate and have love behind it,” Sumiller said. “Because at the end of the day, it is more important to me that we maintain our friendship.”
Their friendship inspired them to open Genever in the first place, Samala said, so they work hard to maintain their close relationship. And their hard work has paid off.
“Taking that leap of faith is so worth it, to be able to have ownership over your own time, over your own resources, and over how you want to present yourselves and how you want to build the community around you,” Samala said.