On this date in 1971, John Shelby Burrows, fifty-eight, of 1201 Marlin Avenue, was sentenced to 5-to-15 years in prison after pleading guilty for the murder of Claude LaBean, thirty-nine, of 459 Galleon Way.
The murder occurred on October 22, 1970 at the Red Candle in the Seal Beach Shopping Center on Pacific Coast Highway. Burrows had been escorted out of the restaurant’s bar by LaBean and another man after a barroom brawl. Burrows returned twenty minutes later after retrieving a .38 pistol from home and shot LaBean three times in the chest as LaBean was leaving through the rear exit. Burrows re-entered the Red Candle where bar patron disarmed him. Burrows then fled the scene and was arrested a short time later a block from his home by Seal Beach Police.
Karen Russell commented on the original version of this post in 2015:
“…I lived across the street from Mr. Burrows and still live at the same address. He had a political argument in the bar with someone and went home and got a gun, went back and found the bartender in the parking lot that broke up the fight between him and the individual who he had the argument with. He shot the bartender in the parking lot.”
The murder wasn’t the only source of notoriety for the Red Candle Bar. A month before the murder, a two-week investigation into a prostitution operation at the Red Candle Bar resulted in the arrest of three women and a man.
Perhaps this notoriety motivated Joseph M. Beard, the new owner of the Red Candle Inn, to rename it The Red Velvet Inn in February 1971. The only crime on record for the Red Velvet Inn was how tempting chef Ernesto Brock’s new menu was — offering New York steak superba, abalone stuffed with crab, and pan-fried abalone with a choice of soup or salad, hot garlic toast, baked potato or potatos au gratin.
One oddity to this story is that Mr. Beard had represented the previous owner, Peter Trama, in a dispute with the city over a variance to serve liquor that lasted throughout 1970 and into early 1971. It appears that the change of ownership (and chef) resolved the liquor issue, but the Red Velvet Inn didn’t last far into 1971. By late October, the address was occupied by Pat’s Electric and Lighting.
John Shelby Burrows was out of jail and living in Huntington Beach by 1977. He died on March 6, 1990 at the age of seventy-six.
– Michael Dobkins
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