Food & Drink

Downtown’s New Top Spot Sports Pub and Kitchen Goes Big

Whiskey bar, outdoor beer deck, games and upscale pub fare is just the beginning

Top Spot Sports Pub bartender Felicity pours a Manhattan as owner Ethan Merritt looks on. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Following an October 2021 soft opening, Top Spot Sports Pub and Kitchen will have an official grand opening in January 2022. Top Spot Owner Ethan Merritt, formerly a small business consultant who spent 10 years as a bar manager in San Francisco, envisioned opening a pub with a “big city” feel. 

Merritt’s new downtown Santa Cruz joint has it all: reclaimed wood floors, custom wood bar top, a whiskey bar, a beer deck outside, bar games on artificial turf, and, most importantly, high-quality grub described as “pub fare with soul food flare.” The menu superstar: Mama Laina’s buttermilk-marinated fried chicken.

Top Spot is open noon-midnight every day except Mondays. Recently, Merritt spoke about Top Spot and why he believes it will fill a niche in downtown Santa Cruz.

Why did you choose this space?

ETHAN MERRITT: We started with a great foundation, a completely built-out kitchen with a wood-burning Italian pizza oven and an amazing patio bar. Nine months ago, when I began prospecting my pub concept, I created the look of the interior on a PowerPoint. It’s extremely satisfying to now see my concept become reality and share it with our community. We like to use the word “pub” because we feel it belongs just as much to our customers as it does to us. I’m also a single father, and it has always been my dream to raise my daughter here in Santa Cruz because we love the beach, outdoor activities and also just the positive vibes.  

What does Top Spot bring to Santa Cruz?

We believe that with our Southern fried chicken, we have a unique food offering for the community. And with recent local pub closures, we felt there was a void for a classic and comfortable place to enjoy sports, food, drinks and bar games like darts, cornhole, ring toss and beer pong. We’ve also partnered with local breweries, as well as the Santa Cruz Warriors. We provide catering for the team after games; the players really go nuts for our fried chicken and collard greens. 

711 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-471-8089,



  1. Carlos O.

    January 2, 2022 at 2:43 pm

    The space was vacant for some years. Prior to its vacancy it believe it was home to a dive bar called The Avenue, at least from what I recall.

  2. Orly

    December 29, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    what was in that space prior?

    • Alexandra Treadwell

      January 1, 2022 at 10:11 am

      Great location, food and vibe. Love the back patio. Definitely recommend

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