Coronavirus in San Diego County

Shaken and Stirred: Locals Remember Good Times at Beloved Hillcrest Martini Bar

NBC Universal, Inc.

Sadly, the tally of restaurants and bars forced to close since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has gone up another notch.

Martinis Above Fourth in Hillcrest is closing for good.

The popular restaurant and show bar attracted talent from all over the world, and more than a few famous customers as well.

Nestled in the heart of Hillcrest, some might say Martinis was the heartbeat of the community's music and entertainment scene.

Regardless, it’s a very sad farewell for owners, employees, and patrons alike. Hillcrest residents Joe and Rob stopped by the bar on their nightly walk for quick a trip down memory lane.

"It’s like our Cheers because we know the people who go there, we know the owners. It’s where everybody knows your name,” Joe Florence said.

Martinis closed its doors some three weeks ago by most accounts, but on Monday the owners posted a letter on the bar’s website.

It reads in part, "We have concluded there is simply no real viable path forward for Martinis Above Fourth and decided to close the business and file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.”

"I got pretty depressed,” Rob Horlick said. “It was just typical for 2020, another depressing piece of news."

For 10-plus years, the show bar and restaurant brought in popular acts and artists.  

"They had Broadway singers come here. They had comics and singers here that did the Hollywood-New York circuit. I don't know any other place that does that,” Florence said.

The unique lineups came much to the delight of Spencer Luster who co-managed the place for two years.

“I am a singer myself and I had just moved here. All of the sudden, just finding a place where I got to be surrounded by musicians all day, every day was just mind blowing,” Luster explained.

As popular as it was, the pandemic handcuffed its offerings. Live entertainment was banned and for a long time dining was allowed only outside. Martinis didn’t have any outdoor space.

"There is a little elevator to go up,” Horlick said. “They were limited with the number of people, they couldn't have the acts that were the big draws."

Martinis joins many small businesses that didn't survive the coronavirus pandemic, but those who came here know it was one of a kind.

“It's a huge loss for the music and performance industry in town for sure,” Luster said.

The letter posted on its website didn't identify specific pandemic challenges that led to closing but did indicate they are typical of what's happening elsewhere in the food and entertainment industries.

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