BAR, RESTAURANT AND RETAIL operations have gone on and off the downtown map for decades. That revolving-door aspect has amplified over the past five years and became far too one-way during the pandemic.
There’s still an ugly abundance of empty storefronts on Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter, our urban entertainment district’s main drag.
However, there are glimmers of light. Hope springs eternal. Here’s a look at a a handful of downtown spots where entrepreneurs are ready to try, try again.
Pictured here and in lead photo: Renderings of Gaslamplighter. (Courtesy photo)
New management is in place at Side Bar and Ciro’s Pizzeria at the corner of Market Street and Sixth Avenue. Previously owned by RMD Group, both places were stalwarts of the entertainment district for about 15 years.
Side Bar reinvented itself several times over its run. It was the first downtown San Diego club to offer bottle service. Ciro’s is where you went to coat your stomach after a late night of bottle service.
Both places had high street cred; happily the reputation of the new owner precedes itself in an encouraging way.
Frankie Sciuto, a fourth-generation owner of The Lamplighter (a legendary Mission Hills booze-and-karaoke bar), bought Side Bar in 2021 and just announced plans for a total revamp of Ciro’s.
Sciuto’s NVRLFT Hospitality is working with GTC Design Studios to turn the pizzeria into an “elevated and contemporary version” of Lamplighter.
The new, brilliant name: Gaslamplighter.
The redesign will mimic an extravagant speakeasy. And yes, there will be a stage lighted for karaoke and other live performances.
Johnny WAHOO! Golf Bar
Johnny WAHOO! Golf Bar. (Courtesy photo)
RMD Group (which still operates the downtown dual-concept Huntress/Lumi steakhouse-and-sushi bar) is focusing its attention on the new, 7,000-square-foot Johnny WAHOO! Golf Bar. It goes into the location previously occupied by Volcano Rabbit in the Gaslamp. The new place will house two Full Swing golf simulators, allowing guests to virtually play 18 holes at renown courses like Pebble Beach. The bar serves food from an RMD Group menu that includes deviled eggs and bison meatballs. With 20 TVs, the new bar aims to be an NFL football watching hub.
An interior rendering of Zama. (Courtesy photo)
The 4,000-square-foot restaurant space at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Island Avenue in the Gaslamp has turned over several times in recent years. Most recently it was the Asian-fusion Monkey King. Now it’s slated to be Zama, billed as an exotic, jungle-themed restaurant and nightlife space offering Latin American cuisine. Zama is being designed by vaunted Tucker Sadler Architects (the visionaries behind Portside Pier).
Carruth Cellars at Carte Hotel in Little Italy. (Courtesy photo)
Carruth Cellars made its return to Little Italy with a grand opening party in early September in a new location on the ground floor of Carte Hotel. (Recall that Carruth had departed its Wine Garden location on Kettner Street earlier in the year and moved to a spot in Liberty Station.) The Carte Hotel location is on the property’s first floor and is open weekdays 3to 9 p.m. and weekends from noon to 10 p.m.
The sweet counter at Hey Sugar!. (Facebook)
Southern-styled bakery Hey Sugar! is open for business in the East Village and gearing up for a September 17 grand opening. The founder and head baker is Chan Buie, a 20-year Navy veteran. Located in the Park 12 apartment high-rise near Petco Park, the store servers up freshly baked cobblers, cheesecakes, oversized cookies and much more. SDSun