Night Moves

By David Perloff

When the lights come on, it’s time to go home (or at least to an afterhours). But when there haven’t been enough customers, closing time means the place is going to be dark for a while.

Luckily for San Diegans, the city’s dining and nightlife purveyors are always on the lookout for the perfect venues in which to create the next big things. So, when one bar or restaurant vanishes (the Gaslamp club Vanish lasted only a few weeks), another is sure to open in its place.

From recent grand openings to upcoming revelations, here’s what’s happening, or about to happen, on the Finest City nightlife scene.
Take a bite, have a sip, bust a move. And if you hear “Last call!” rest assured it’s just a temporary setback.

East Village

What was The Fleetwood will soon become two distinct venues by Ty Hauter’s Good Time Design (owner and operator of downtown venues including Block No. 16, Bootlegger, Bub’s at the Ballpark, Culy Warehouse, Double Deuce, Lucky’s Lunch Counter and Tipsy Crow). The larger of the two new spaces will be The Blind Burro, a south-of-the-border-coastal restaurant and cocktail bar slated for a December 2012 launch. One especially cool new feature: outdoor walk-up drink service from an indoor/outdoor bar on the corner of 7th Ave. and J St.

The more intimate Cat Eye Club, a ‘60s-style lounge with “Mad Men"-esque flair, will welcome a maximum of 49 patrons at a time through a separate entrance. Those who make it inside what’s being billed as a ground-floor “penthouse” will be treated to from high-end champagne drinks and other period cocktails, mixed with the soothing sounds of the era’s smoothest crooners.
The Blind Burro, 639 J St., Gaslamp, (Cat Eye Club, 639 ½ J St.)

Good Time Design has also just announced a new collaboration with Bravo “Top Chef” contestant Rich Sweeney (chef-owner of Hillcrest’s R Gang Eatery) and Tailgate Beer owner Wesley Keegan. With suds by Tailgate, grub by Sweeney and vibe by Good Time Design, the downtown project, which Ty Hauter describes as a “local tap and tasting room,” will celebrate San Diego’s rise to the top of the class (and glass) of the nation’s craft beer scene.

Working with celebrated architect Graham Downes, Jon Mangini (BASIC Urban Kitchen in East Village, URBN Coal Fired Pizza in North Park) will unveil his new Downtown project, Gang Kitchen, in November. Executive chef and partner Jo Ann Plympton has created a “multi-Asian” menu of hot and cold dishes ranging from Grilled Shanghai Beef to Szechuan Lobster Crepes. After dinner has settled, Gang Kitchen will offer small plates into the night, tempting guests to stay late with Asian-inspired cocktails, Asian beers and a collection of Sakes

Gang Kitchen, 345 Sixth Ave., East Village,

The Gaslamp

What used to be the Lincoln Room is now The Commons Bar, a new drinks-and-grub joint (try the wings) on Fourth Ave., across from the Horton Plaza parking structure and what will become Horton Plaza Park. The new watering hole for the working man, which features a game room and plenty of TVs for sports, is a collaboration by Leigh Gibson, who owns Dirty Birds in Pacific Beach, and San Diego entrepreneur Jake Pescatello (who’s wife Jamie owns San Diego’s hospitality-focused PR firm, J Public Relations).

The Commons, 901 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp, 619.318.2443,

Thanks to an extensive, high-end remodel, Gramercy Management Group’s 207 at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego now sparkles with three big LED screens boasting the “highest resolution in the city.” Even the DJ booth and columns (that raise the roof) are encased in LEDs. New lighting effects pulse throughout the club, giving the new, much larger dance floor (and elevated VIP area, sure to be the new hotspot for the bottle service crowd) more focus and energy. The redesigned bar is compact, efficient and able to deliver the goods fast and hard at this bustling hub of the Gaslamp party scene.

207, 207 5th Ave., Gaslamp, 619.769.6926,

The Keating Hotel’s subterranean venue (formerly Sway) has transformed into Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse, a nightclub-meets-burlesque-revue heating up the Gaslamp underground. VIP bottle-service tables surround the main stage, on which seductive and barely clad female dancers swing from illuminated stripper poles and undulate in a bathtub. Pussycat Dolls founder Robin Antin’s Las Vegas venue (Pussycat Doll Burlesque Saloon at Planet Hollywood) has featured celebrity “Doll for the Day” guests including Jessica Simpson, Carmen Electra and Pamela Anderson.

Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse, 432 F St., Gaslamp, 619.398.3655,

If you’ve never been to The Stage, the remodel might not wow you, but this Gaslamp spot for live music has a fresh, new look and is now booking DJ nights. The venue’s often overlooked, but it’s just the right size to catch a band (the owner, Erik Alexander, is the lead singer of Disco Pimps), pump those fists and/or sample the new menu of Mexican fare.

The Stage, 762 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp, 619.651.0707,

North Park

From L.A.-based nightlife purveyors 213 comes Seven Grand, which takes over the space that used to be Bacchus House in North Park. The whiskey-house-meets-hunting-lodge showcases a curated collection of whiskeys and specializes in seasonal cocktails comprising fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups. The vibe is at once subdued and energetic, providing a comfortable atmosphere for liquor lovers and beer drinkers to mingle hear each other over the music.
Seven Grand, 3054 University Ave., North Park, 619.269.8820,


The pearly gates have closed on the garden that was Eden. In its place will be Hillcrest’s newest nightclub, 1202, named for the venue’s address on University Avenue. The Range Kitchen & Cocktails, which had been across the street on University, will take over Eden’s former restaurant space. This dining/nightlife duplex is courtesy of Robert Lane and David Schiffman, owners of the Gaslamp’s heritage Whiskey Girl (now in its new location at 702 Fifth Ave.).

1202, 1202 University Ave., Hillcrest,

The Range Kitchen & Cocktails, 1220 University Ave., Hillcrest,

Little Italy

San Diego Creative Media (Analog, Firehouse American Eatery + Lounge, Vin de Syrah) just signed a lease on a Little Italy property located at the corner of Kettner Blvd. and Grape Street, across from Waterfront (touted as “San Diego’s oldest tavern”). No word yet as to what the team of Matt Spencer and Tyler Charmin will unveil, but if it’s anything like this duo’s other venues, expect great food mixed with DJ beats and décor that makes you feel cool just for being there.

Normal Heights

Consortium Holdings (Craft & Commerce, El Dorado, Noble Experiment, UnderBelly) just announced two new projects on one site (the former Club Kadan) in Normal Heights. Owners Arsalun Tafazoli and Nathan Stanton’s P olite Provisions, set to open in December, will feature renowned bartender Erick Castro behind an apothecary-style bar serving a collection of house-made tonics and bitters that harkens back to when the corner drug store’s soda fountain was the place to meet and talk with neighbors. Soda jerks of yesteryear would swoon for the joint’s 46-tap draft system, dispensing handmade sodas, spirits and cocktails. Michelin star-earning executive chef Jason McLeod has created a simple menu for the adjacent Soda & Swine: meatballs, apple pie and the myriad applications for these bygone staples of culinary Americana, served in a space designed by Paul Basile to feel like a period butcher shop.
Polite Provisions, 4696 30th St., Normal Heights,

Soda & Swine, around the corner on Adams Ave.,

Sauces made from scratch will cover the heartier dishes at Heights (aka Heights Tavern on Adams Avenue), set to open mid-October at a Normal Heights location that’s been home to the Thai Joint restaurant, A Second Chance refurbished furniture store and Dirty Dog dog wash in recent years. Burgers, fries (the Canadian Wet Fries are smothered in gravy and cheese curds), salads and derivations of these staples will comprise the menu, which will be accompanied by a selection of hand-crafted drinks created by the bar team at San Diego’s Blind Tiger Cocktail Co. Beers include 30 drafts, 20 bottles and a decidedly local focus.

Heights Tavern, 3377 Adams Ave., Normal Heights, 619.280.3370,

Bay Park

From the ashes of the fire that took out Bay Park’s Danino’s Pizza has emerged Luce, a “Seasonal California and Italian Gastropub” created by Tony D’Amato to capture the neighborhood’s social scene and breathe flavorful new life into the southern stretch of Morena Blvd. Owner of the adjacent Baci Ristorante, a recipient of AAA’s Four Diamond Award 14 years in row, D’Amato collaborated with executive chef Domenico Alioto to create Luce’s small plates menu of artisan pizzas, burgers and other affordable entrées made with locally sourced ingredients and priced below $20.
Luce, 1959 Morena Blvd., Bay Park, 619.275.0321,


North County’s classic Yogi’s Beach Bar has gone with the wind. Now in it’s place on Hwy. 101, Tower 13 Beach Bar will service the neighborhood and anyone cruising the coast with live music, a dance floor and a couple dozen (mostly local) beers on tap. Sports on TV will attract the dudes, while the menu (burgers and salads) from executive chef A.J. Mortazavi were created to lure thirtysomethings looking for a bite with a view.

Tower 13 Beach Bar, 2633 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Cardiff, 760.635.1200,