Sadly, the Casbah has lost one of its own.
Casbah co-owner and beloved back bartender Bob Bennett died suddenly this week. Bennett, along with Tim Mays and Peter Verbrugge, opened the Pink Panther Club in 1986 and ran it in that location before it morphed into the Casbah in 1989, and eventually moved to a larger-capacity club at its current Kettner Boulevard location in 1994.
According to Mays, Bennett was a mentor as well as a business partner -- and a great friend.
"When I met him, he had this great vintage store -- before anyone else started doing that kind of thing -- and he was just the coolest dude," Mays said. "He took me under his wing and became my friend. We worked for years and years together; during the beginning years of the Pink Panther and the Casbah, we’d be there five or six nights out of the week together. I'd do the booking, and he'd run the bar. He was a fixture at the back bar for 20 years. People would come to [the Casbah] just to hang with him. There were plenty of nights when we'd be back there, talking into the wee hours of the night."
Rosemary Bystrak, Casbah’s in-house publicist (and a contributor to SoundDiego), first met him when she started working at the club in 2006 –- and also remembers him fondly.
"A lot of people called him Uncle Bob," Bystrak said. "He was just so open with everyone. He could be a cantankerous guy -- like, he'd kind of be barking at you, and you kind of wanted to run -- but at the same time, you were stoked to just be there with him [laughs]. There was a steady crowd of people who would come to the Casbah on Friday nights regardless of who was playing and pay at the door just to hang out with Bob. We'd always joke about his overpours –- there always seemed to be more booze on the mats than in the drinks [laughs]."
Mays attempted to explain the impact Bennett had on the people around him.
"He touched a lot of people's lives," Mays said. "He always had a story. He was from Pittsburgh, and he was a little older than most of us, and he'd been around. He had a strange world view -- and thought and said things that weren't always logical to anyone but him. But he had a way of looking at things that was very unique. He lived his life the way he wanted to."
When asked if he remembered anything off the top of his head about Bennett that made him smile, Mays hardly knew where to start.
“He was always really supportive – and really protective. I remember whenever we’d have particularly troublesome customers, Bob would step right in, and go ‘Get the f--- outta here!’ He bit somebody’s nose once. He was just a crazy kid [laughs].”
Mays also told SoundDiego that there will be a public memorial service at some point soon, most likely at the Casbah. It would be a fitting send-off for their friend and colleague.
"People still stop in and ask for him now and then," Mays said. "He was just truly one of a kind.”