When Marya Cunha and her husband Paul Cunha got married at Santa Clara’s S.E.S. Portuguese Hall, they had a Star Wars themed wedding to show their enthusiasm for the popular space opera. In 2011, this couple, both born, raised and living in Santa Clara, opened the 7 Stars Bar & Grill (7starsbar.com, 398 S. Bascom Ave, San Jose). Life-size figures of Darth Vader, BB-8, Jabba the Hutt and a model of the Millennium Falcon are just a few examples of the many photo-friendly features at this Star Wars themed establishment.
“We really try to have a goal to be a place for your inner kid,” Marya Cunha said. “We want everyone to feel safe here, whether they’re women, people from the LGBTQ community or people from all races and religions. Although we allow all ages here during the day, from 6 p.m. and on, we are 21 and up—we are definitely a more adult-oriented business.”
In the back of the restaurant are three flags hanging up—the United States flag, the Portuguese flag and the U.S. Marines flag.
“Paul was into retail throughout his career and he was in the U.S. Marines,” Marya Cunha said. “Paul is Portuguese so we serve the Linguica corn dog as a nod to his heritage. He’s the kitchen manager and I’m the foodie.”
A long-time veteran of the food and beverage industry, Marya Cunha discussed other specialties at the 7 Stars Bar & Grill, including recommended drinks from the Star Wars cocktail menu.
“The meatballs are my grandma’s recipe; we make everything from scratch, from the marinara to the meatballs,” she said. “We also make the meatloaf patty melt from scratch. With the New York dog, it takes two hours to make the red onion sauce. Two of our more popular drinks are the Han Solo, which is made from a local whiskey called Coldcock, and another one is the Maz Kanata—we hand squeeze ruby red grapefruit and lime juices for that one. It’s kind of old fashioned with the ruby red grapefruit juice and the gin. A lot of people thought the Maz Kanata character reminded them of Estelle Getty from the Golden Girls and I thought this is something she might drink.”
The 7 Stars Bar & Grill offers billiards and other games. It hosts Karaoke on Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. and on Mondays at 8 p.m, its Live Event Trivia can feature various categories, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel and more. Patrons also work with the venue to host themed parties with custom drink menus. For example, a Harry Potter theme party might offer a Half Blood Prince with bourbon, lemon juice, soda water and blood orange juice.
Marya Cunha added that her business has donated to school auctions and hosted fundraisers for a number of organizations, including Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence and the Alum Rock Counseling Center.
“The name ‘7 Stars’ is us and our five kids,” said Marya Cunha, unraveling the mystique behind the name of the business. “We are a blended family and we are the ‘7 Stars.’ A lot of our customers have thought that the name ‘7 Stars’ has to do with Star Wars but it doesn’t. We are a family business. The business was started with help from both our parents who still live in Santa Clara. Paul’s dad, John Cunha, who passed away two years ago, used to come and help out here every day.”