When InCahoots opened in 1992 in the heart of Mission Valley, few expected the sprawling country western saloon to stay in business much longer than six months.
Nearly three decades later, the beloved bar and dance hall will soon be closing its doors, a casualty of an impending sale that will likely lead to a much different tenant.
Operators of InCahoots will be throwing their final New Year’s Eve bash to close out their long run in Mission Valley, a gathering that is expected to draw devoted out-of-town fans from Phoenix to Nashville.
The building on Mission Center Road is currently in escrow, and the brokerage handling the sale would not disclose anything about the prospective buyer. When asked about potential new tenants, broker William Shrader would say only that the new owner would be “changing the use.”
The owner of both the building and the business, Suzanne Wales of Texas, was unavailable for comment.
News of the closing, say the bar’s patrons and managers, is devastating. While the venue has long been a haven for country western fans, its appeal extends far beyond classic country tunes and line dancing.
“It’s all very emotional,” said general manager Gary Martin. “I had a lady call me yesterday and she was in tears. She said it will be a financial struggle to come to the New Year’s Eve party and I told her I’d take care of her.”
Fans describe it as a second home, a place to reunite with close friends while dancing the night away. Those less confident about their footwork have come for the lessons on how to execute a perfect two-step.
InCahoots also proved to be a much-needed refuge for a number of the survivors of last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas that claimed the lives of 58 people attending the Route 91 country music festival.
Within a week of the shooting, survivors began gathering at InCahoots for group therapy sessions led by Shiva Ghaed, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and is herself a survivor of the Route 91 tragedy. Therapy sessions, which drew 40 to 70 participants at a time, were held weekly for a year.
“Let me tell you about this bar,” said Ghaed, who has been a regular patron for the last seven years. “This place is and has always been a place of healing and recovery. This is a community home, and InCahoots was so generous, opening their doors to us for the meetings. They were very much a part of this recovery process for this community. A lot of people hadn’t gone to InCahoots until the whole support group started.”
So passionate are InCahoots’ fans that they’ve started an online petition to “keep this San Diego staple alive.” While more than 2,600 have signed the online plea, it will take more than crowdsourcing to save the business.
When Martin learned that the bar’s lease would not be renewed, the owner told the operators they would need to find a new location and if it met with her approval, they could consider relocating the business.
Martin, who has been scouting locations, including a few in La Mesa, is hopeful he’ll land a suitable site. Given the rising popularity of Mission Valley, he’s not sure he’ll have success there.
He acknowledges sales have slowed a bit in the last couple of years as the bar raised prices slightly in the face of rising expenses. But you can still get a cocktail there for as little as $6, Martin said. He remains hopeful that a relocation will happen.
“I already have five people in line to help find a location,” he said. “And if the owner isn’t on board with what I find, I have people willing to buy the business.”
Stephanie Knobel has been a regular at InCahoots since 2013, and even though she moved to Phoenix six months ago, that hasn’t stopped her from making regular pilgrimages to the dance hall. She’ll be attending the New Year’s Eve party with her boyfriend — who she met at InCahoots.
“When we heard the news it was closing, we were totally devastated,” said Knobel, 31. “We ended up on these text message chains, people were saying, can you believe this. I didn’t even like country western before I first went, but the dancing is so much fun, and now I actually like the music.”
And if it were to relocate, what then?
“It’ll definitely be different because there’s so much history in that building but it’s better than losing it,” Knobel sighed. “This was like our home.”