History of the West Coast Saloon

One evening, circa February, 1981, Jim Groninger, Kendall Smith and Shaun Trenholm were at Johnny’s Tavern in North Lawrence enjoying a beer when the conversation turned to the bar business. In Groninger’s words, “we can do this!” The fellows had met as members of the KU track team and shared a passion for running and cold beer. Groninger and Smith were known to follow up a long, hard run with beers on the porch of the house they rented.  Hence was born PAC Ltd., the corporate name Porch Athletic Club, doing business as West Coast Saloon.  

Smith and Groninger were on a run in March, 1981 and saw a for-lease sign in the window of a recently constructed building located on the site of the old Firebird Club and pool. Trenholm put off finishing college and let Smith talk him into joining up with Groninger to open up a 3.2% beer bar.  On a tight budget the lads built the bar, booths and interior themselves.  There wasn’t enough money to finish the floor, so Groninger had an idea to import sand and make a “spring-break” theme to go with the name West Coast Saloon.  Smith thought to add a boardwalk and thus the bar with a beach was born.  

On Friday, June 12, 1981 West Coast Saloon opened its doors. Saturday, June 13, 1981 Larry Denton and Richard Roberts patronized The Coast and became the first of our loyal regulars.  Roberts went on to tend bar and manage The Coast while Denton became the unofficial “greeter”…our own Norm, until his unfortunate death from leukemia.  Larry and Richard were so helpful in teaching the three fledgling owners the ins and outs of the bar business that the annual Larry and Richard Night was created to honor Lawrence’s most famous Bud drinkers.  That same year the Jayhawks went to the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.  The Coast chartered a bus for the regulars and when they returned the banner now hanging on the ceiling came along also.


In 1982 Groninger and Smith sold their interest in The Coast to Trenholm.  Groninger went to Washington, DC on the staff of Congressman Jim Slattery and Smith went to Boulder, Colorado to be a travel agent after touring Europe.  Trenholm kept the bar going and went on to finish KU and teach and coach in the Lawrence School District. His Father, Peter Trenholm, of Abbeville, South Carolina, bought the pool tables and liked to talk of his investment foray into the gaming business in Kansas before he turned the tables over to Shaun.


A regular since opening day, Bob Gruenwald went to work at The Coast in 1983 and in 1987 Gruenwald and Trenholm became partners.  The Coast added liquor in 1986 and in 1988 the grill was opened behind the bar so customers could smell the aroma and see their food cooked.  The Coast proudly boasts the best burger, anywhere!  The Jayhawk addition was finished in 1990 with Trenholm’s Mother, Julie Trenholm, painting the Jayhawks.


Tragedy struck in 1995 when longtime friend and patron David Johnson was killed in a highway accident by a drunk driver. David was a friend to everyone and a devoted father and family man. He is remembered with a portrait painted by local artist Lenore Allen. The portrait is on the wall of the NCAA Basketball Tournament Bracket. David was a loyal Jayhawk fan and helped tend bar the night KU won the National Championship in 1988.  David’s greatest joy was time spent with family and friends. We dedicate the corner booth to him so that groups of people can sit together and enjoy each others’ company.  David is remembered with an annual golf tournament every June that benefits the education fund of his two sons, Colton and Jake.


In 2003, Dave Dick became a third partner in PAC Ltd.  Dave was both a regular patron and bartender during his KU days.  In 2005 the fellows created TGD Holdings LLC to purchase the building.  A deck was built by Garrett Attig on the east side of the building in response to the City’s no-smoking ordinance.  Garrett and his construction company also remodeled the interior of the building when the grill was turned 90 degrees to face the north door.


2008 was a great year to be a Jayhawk and patronize The Coast as the Hawks won the Orange Bowl in Football and the National Championship in Basketball.  KU Footballers and Coast Regulars Kayl Anderson, long snapper; Ryan Cantrell, center; and Scott Webb, kicker were put in the West Coast Saloon Hall of Fame.


In 2009 a new roof was put on the building and in 2010 a new concrete parking lot finally finished the improvements that had been years in the making.  30 years in business will be celebrated June 12, 2011.  Shaun, Bob and Dave are so grateful for the wonderful friends and loyal employees that have graced The Coast over the years. We hope all our customers will enjoy the spirit of friendship we feel at West Coast Saloon.

Thank you for your patronage!