San Diego

Soda Bar Changes Hands

Soda Bar, the City Heights live-music venue, has new owners

Looks like San Diego's music scene is wasting no time making headlines in 2018: Soda Bar, the City Heights concert venue, has been sold. 

The club's new ownership, operating as Big Soda LLC, is comprised of long-time Soda Bar talent buyer Cory Stier (Mrs. Magician, Hideout, Cults), Casbah owner Tim Mays, Andrew Montoya (Beaters, Teach Me, the Sess), and Soda Bar bar manager Angie Ollman.

Over the last three years, an acrimonious dispute between the building's landlords and Soda Bar's then-owners, Adam Cook and Cuong Nguyen (also owners of North Park's Bluefoot Bar & Lounge), has been playing out behind the scenes, eventually prompting the sale. In February 2017, they approached the club's staff first about taking over and, naturally, Stier and Ollman jumped at the chance. However, they still needed at least one other partner.

"I made a list of potential people I could go to who would want to be in on it and close to the top of that list was Tim Mays," Stier said. "The more I thought about it, out of any of the other people who were on that list, he's the only one who knows the ebbs and flows of the business and is obviously in it for life. I asked him and within five minutes, he hit me up and said 'I'd love to.' It was really crazy. It was like he didn't even think about it. [laughs]

"I was kinda blown away," Stier continued. "[Mays] is extremely good at his job and the Casbah is the spot. I've always enjoyed working with him and I'm honored that he wants to be in there with us. So it's pretty cool. I feel good about it and once he got in, things started moving along a lot faster. It's great."

Apparently, Mays had his sights on the venue for quite some time.

"I had approached Cuong about buying Soda Bar a few years ago one day when I ran into him outside the Observatory," Mays told SoundDiego via email. "That was just in passing though. Soda Bar is a natural fit with what I'm already doing at Casbah -- pretty much a no-brainer on my part. Cory and Angie have been running the club for years and Drew [Montoya] is a licensed contractor as well as a local musician, so we have a good team."

Of course, with two of San Diego's premier talent buyers running the show, bookings should benefit.

"Cory will retain primary booking of the venue and I will continue to book 35-40 shows there per year," Mays said. "We anticipate that with the shared interest, we will be able to bring even more shows to the club than before."

While Soda Bar enjoys the new change in ownership, little else will be overhauled, although Stier did mention that they intend to do some minor upgrades over time.

"We're doing a bunch of different cosmetic stuff. We'll also be taking some time off in July to do some remodeling, because you should -- I've always thought you should put money in to make a place better."

Soda Bar is located at 3615 El Cajon Blvd. Visit their official website for show listings, tickets and more information.

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow and runs the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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