In the East Village neighborhood of downtown Long Beach, on the corner of 4th and Olive, stands a sleek, airy restaurant – aptly named, Fourth and Olive. Most weeknights and every weekend the place is electric: it’s the newest destination for foodies who love a great dining experience. Featuring Alsatian cuisine and creative Germanic dishes, Fourth and Olive brings patrons fantastic dishes highlighting both the traditional Alsace cuisine, and the farm-to-table California produce.
If at dinner you have questions about wine pairings or obscure beer profiles, you may speak to Dan Tapia, proprietor of the establishment and also resident expert on “consuming high quality alcoholic beverages.” His words. After 23 years in the business, Dan has built a wine, beer, and cocktail program that could compete with Michelin star restaurants. Dan is also a disabled veteran.
After studying Engineering Dan enlisted in the Navy and worked as a Technician in the field of Engineering. Tragically, he was involved in an incident that left him with a broken neck. “I’m a high-functioning quadriplegic,” he tells us. “We’re called ‘walking quads.’” Upon returning home after his injury he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he knew the answer was no longer in the world of Engineering. “I went into bartending and waiting tables while I was trying to figure it out – then I just fell in love with the industry.”
Dan quickly rose in the ranks and soon found himself as the Senior Sommelier at Bouchon, but was let go – not because of lack of experience, but because he used a cane due to injury. “Management thought disabilities were, ‘unhip,’ and instructed disabled guests to be seated in the rear of the restaurant where they would not be seen.” This egregious case of disability discrimination was the tipping point for Dan, who decided that the time had come to start his own company. “I’d been wanting to do it for years,” Dan said, “but this was the final push.”
Now open for seven months, Fourth and Olive has received a warm reception from the neighborhood, to say the least. Returning customers praise the atmosphere, impeccable service (over two thirds of the staff are veterans), and ambience, to say nothing of the menu. Fourth and Olive sources local, ethically raised meat, procures thoughtful alcohol pairings, and offers patrons “as close a taste to Europe as can be found in Long Beach.”
To call this business a success is an understatement, but Dan fought plenty of battles to make his dream space a reality. “This restaurant would not have opened without The Jonas Project. In many respects, they really helped push this through.”
After hearing about TJP through a friend, Dan submitted his budding business plan and was quickly accepted. Bob Skidmore and Elaine Matthews offered invaluable guidance through the rough terrain of entrepreneurship. Bob, a fellow veteran, gave market insight and consulted on the high-level vision Dan had for his business. Elaine offered crucial support and website advice in a time when Dan needed it most. “I used The Jonas Project as a full-service mentorship program. They helped me with marketing, securing funding from banks, and everything in between.”
Dan made a tough decision when he returned home from service, he decided that he – not his disability – would decide how his story would end. “Because I’m stubborn as hell and I have an incredibly supportive wife, I am able to live a largely mobile life today.” And of his experience with TJP? “They were a catalyst for my success.”