The Night Stuff
By Pat Sherman
On any given night, tens of thousands of San Diegans flock to the city’s swanky night clubs and restaurants-marveling at light displays, killer DJs, gorgeous go-gos and other flourishes.
What club-goers usually don’t see is the extensive planning and foresight that go into designing, building and running a top-tier nightspot.
Never content to rest on their laurels, San Diego’s architects of ambiance are keeping buzzy, always looking toward their next new project or renovation-determined to keep their brands fresh, and San Diegans satisfied.
PacificSD checked in with a few of the city’s leading nightlife purveyors to learn about their plans to expand their empires and rock our worlds.
Good Time Design
Ty Hauter (who met his wife on a blind date featured in this magazine) is owner of Good Time Design and managing partner of RT’s Longboard Grill in Pacific Beach; Bubs @ the Ball Park in East Village; Tipsy Crow and Culy Warehouse & Event Center in the Gaslamp; and a few other San Diego County locations. He currently has a construction crew working on new digs at Market Street and 8th Avenue downtown, the site formerly occupied by Bar Ninety.
The project, a new East Village eatery & nightspot called The Bootlegger, is being developed in partnership with the owners of P.B. Shore Club and is less than 60 days from opening, Hauter says.
The Americana-themed resto will take diners back to the time of prohibition and feature “choice comfort food, cool cocktails and classic rock.”
Hauter and longtime night-lifer Kenneth Lovi also just launched a new eatery at Market Street and 9th Avenue called The Knotty Barrel Gastropub, which will offer an array of craft beers and feature a rustic ambiance comprising wine barrels and reclaimed wood surfaces. Ted White, executive chef of Kensington Grill, and sous chef Eric O’Connor, formerly of La Jolla’s Whisknladle, are also onboard. The menu will include items such as bison or salmon burgers, seared Ahi street tacos and a Duroc pork dry aged porterhouse with hickory smoked sea salt.
In September, Hauter hopes to break ground on a project similar to Bub’s somewhere near 30th Street and Adams Avenue. Meanwhile, plans are also in the works to open yet another eatery on Coronado Island, this one offering patrons a relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy a glass of wine or craft beer while sampling contemporary cuisine infused with authentic French and Italian flavors.
NightlifeSD’s David Laurent, who owns Eden nightclub in Hillcrest and is a partner in Side Bar in the Gaslamp, foresees greater exposure for his brand in the coming year.
NightlifeSD is also part-owner of the recently opened Ciro’s Pizzeria and Beerhouse in Pacific Beach. There are additional plans to open several additional Ciro’s locations around the county.
Laurent says he’s also in negotiations for a sushi restaurant concept in the Gaslamp.
“It will be kind of an upper-end, trendy restaurant on Fifth Avenue,” he says. “We’d definitely look to have live entertainment, like a DJ.
“It’s not a done deal as of yet,” Laurent says, “but if all works out, we’re looking at a potential opening in the first quarter of 2012.”
Laurent also hopes to capitalize on the growing popularity of electronic dance music, creating a 1,200-person capacity concert venue featuring big-name DJs.
“I’m looking at a couple of potential spaces,” he says. “This will be the biggest project that I look to embark on in San Diego.”
SD Creative Media (SDCM)
Matthew Spencer is co-owner (with Tyler Charman) of SD Creative Media, which owns Firehouse in Pacific Beach and is a partner (along with Cohn Restaurant Group) in Vin de Syrah and Analog in the Gaslamp.
Spencer says he has several projects on the horizon, including a sushi lounge and a speakeasy-style venue specializing in craft cocktails-on a larger scale than has been done in San Diego.
“I really want to find a space where half of it is hidden,” Spencer says, noting the “one-stop-shop” essence of New York City’s underground SOHO club, the Kenmare.
Spencer wants to open his sushi lounge in Pacific Beach or an adjacent beach community. It would feature punked-out Harajuku-style food servers.
“You know, the girls around Japan that wear all the Hello Kitty stuff and the crazy watches,” Spencer says, adding that old Bruce Lee films will be shown on TV monitors, as chill lounge music plays in the background.
“We’re kicking around the name, Kung Foo Sushi,” he says.
Mike Georgopoulos of RMD Group (part-owners and operators of Fluxx, Side Bar and Ciro’s Pizza) is still amped about the recent opening of Ciro’s Pizzeria and Beerhouse in Pacific Beach.
Georgopoulos and RMD Group are poised to open San Diego’s much-anticipated, 350-person capacity hip-hop club, F6ix, at the Corner of F Street and 6th Avenue in the Gaslamp-the former, subterranean site of Sin night club. The club is set to open sometime around June 1.
“Our tagline is ‘redefining the hip-hop experience,’” says Georgopoulos, who envisions F6ix as the antidote to San Diego’s house music-heavy club vibe. “We really think we can make this a very RMD -type place, with great service, a good crowd and great music,” he says.
Enlighten Hospitality Group
James Brennan, the visionary behind mega-club Stingaree and the unimaginably popular Gaslamp restaurant, Searsucker (co-owned by chef Brian Malarkey), is a majority partner in Enlighten Hospitality Group.
One of Brennan’s current projects is preparing for the transformation of Stingaree’s first floor into the standalone Guest House venue, which is set for a June 6 opening with DJs Scooter and Lavelle.
The venue, Brennan says, will have an intimate, library feel and will feature electronic dance music, big-name DJs, fireplaces, bookshelves, catwalks, go-go dancers and leather arm chairs.
John Lyons Systems, the company that created the sound and lighting for Encore Beach Club at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel, is taking on the same task for Guest House.
“I really think it’s the missing piece of the puzzle from what we set out to create six years ago at Stingaree,” Brennan says.
Banking on the continued success of Searsucker, Brennan is preparing to open a North County restaurant and night spot called Burlap, at the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real in Carmel Valley. Searsucker’s award-winning chef, Brian Malarkey, conceived Burlap’s America-Chinese bistro menu.
The roughly 9,000-square-foot space, which will include an outdoor patio with koi ponds, a bar and fire pits, is being designed by Thomas Schoo (Searsucker’s designer), and will have a capacity of about 500 persons.
Eric Lingenfelder of Verant Group (owners of True North and West Coast Tavern in North Park, Brewley’s Pint and Tavern at the Beach in Pacific Beach, Sand Bar Sports Grill in Mission Beach and Offshore Tavern in Bay Park) will open their first Gaslamp venue sometime in August.
The 8,000-square-foot space, located at 5th Avenue and Market Street (the site of the soon-to-close Whiskey Girl), will be similar in theme and ambiance to West Coast Tavern, Lingenfelder says.
“We’ve been excited to get into the downtown market, because we’ve been around for 13 years,” says Lingenfelder. “This location became available-and we jumped on it.”
The as-of-yet unnamed, two-story eatery will cater to sports fans and others with more than 40 widescreen TV s, a VIP lounge, three bars and 30 draught beers.
Trivia On Tap: “Verant” is an anagram of “Tavern,” a nod to the group’s first venue in Pacific Beach. verantgroup.com
Bar West owner ventures 100 feet east of I-5
Mike Reidy, owner of Bar West night club in Pacific Beach, is in the final throes of opening a bar at 1310 Morena Boulevard in Bay Park, the current site of live music venue O’Connells (located just off I-5).
Reidy will assume ownership of the venue June 6, with plans to reopen it sometime around July 15 as The Griffin, named after the mythical beast that is half lion and half eagle. Reidy will replace old, stained carpeting with hardwood floors, adding comfortable booths, new lamps and a red color scheme.
“We’re going to roll it out and bill it as more of a dive bar-pool tables, the whole deal,” Reidy says, noting that after two months he will begin booking DJs and live bands.
Reidy hopes to cater to students at nearby University of San Diego. Hours of operation will likely remain 11 to 2 a.m., seven days a week.
Other touches may include food trucks, televised UFC fights, Keno games and bar trivia nights.
“It’s going to be an interactive type bar,” Reidy says. “It’s not a place where you’re going to go there and just sit and drink your sorrows away. There’s something you’re going to be able to do every night of the week.”
Also on the Horizon ...
Opening in July is the new La Jolla location of steak and seafood chain Eddie V’s Prime Seafood (on the site of the former Chart House restaurant at 1270 Prospect Street).
Now open at 1108 S. Coast Hwy 101 is Union Kitchen & Tap, from Eric Leitstein, owner of PB Ale House.
Slated to open June 15 is Barry Braden’s Local Habit, a new restaurant at 3827 5th Avenue in Hillcrest, serving craft beer and pizza made with organic ingredients.