Vito Di Stefano
Big changes are in store for the Griffin, Bay Park's beloved music venue, after being sold to the owners of the Regal Beagle.
Sadly, San Diego's music scene has lost another big player. As we suspected in our January report on local music venues that were on the chopping block (which you can read here), our worst fears have come true: The Griffin has been sold to the owners of the Regal Beagle (Matt Guilbert and Tim Girsch), who plan on ending live music at the Morena District/Bay Park location.
While not altogether shocking – after all, the Griffin's previous incarnation, O'Connell's Pub & Nightclub, wasn't exactly a bumpin' live music hotspot -- any time our local music scene takes a hit on locales to see excellent shows, it's disheartening.
For all of its idiosyncrasies, the Griffin was an excellent choice for music fans: It routinely boasted cheap tickets, a fine sound system, a comfortable layout with plenty of tables and standing room, billiards and shuffleboard, plenty of parking, friendly bartenders and excellent local (and national) acts.
For those of us who traverse the local music landscape, it was one of the most ideal places in town to catch a touring act, an up-and-coming buzz band or a San Diego favorite (thanks in most part to talent buyer extraordinaire Joe Rinaldi). So why change it?
"As a business model, it's not very lucrative -- as you can see," Regal Beagle manager Jesse Melton told us. "And let's face it: The majority of people who go to shows on that scale are drinking at home and when they come in, buy one can of PBR and that's it. We're great bar owners, so we're going to do what we do best."
One of the appealing things (to buyers) about the Griffin is its Type 48 liquor license, which, according to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, "authorizes the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits for consumption on the premises where sold. Food service is not required." For bars and nightclubs, these types of licenses can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the location. It's not surprising the Regal Beagle people wanted to get involved.
"When you're looking for bars, sometimes you're looking for a current existing license," Melton continued. "The location's license itself is valuable. We weren't actually avidly looking to buy something, but this came along, and we looked into it and decided to go for it."
When asked if they're considering keeping the live music going, Melton was definitive: "No, not at all. We're getting rid of the stage. I hate being part of closing a music venue in San Diego -- I mean, I've got friends who play in bands and I've been a part of the local music scene for years -- but we bought a bar and we're turning it back into a bar."