The Balboa Changes Course

The Balboa changes course with a move that will impact the local music scene

Oh, Balboa Bar & Grill, we hardly knew ye. In a blow to the local music scene, the intimate Bankers Hill club has confirmed to SoundDiego that it has officially ceased to offer live music.

The news came as somewhat of a surprise, since it was only a year ago that the venue was rebranded from the Tin Can Alehouse to the Balboa Bar & Grill (read SoundDiego's report on that change), and reopened on March 6, 2015, with a show featuring local indie-rock bands Ed Ghost Tucker and Idyll Wild (both of which are either now defunct or on hiatus as well).

During that transition, the spot went from offering shows on a nearly nightly basis to a more conservative Friday/Saturday-only schedule, typically with only two bands on the lineups. The Balboa operated on that premise for all of 2015, and it seemed to make sense. The shows were more focused (chalk that up to the venue’s talent buyer, Jackson Milgaten), and no one can argue with the strategy that music fans -- and local bands -- are more willing to go out on weekends for shows rather than on "school nights."

But after we sensed a disturbance in the force (OK, we noticed there were no January shows scheduled or listed on their Facebook page), we reached out to Milgaten to find out if our suspicions had merit, and they were unfortunately confirmed.

“The business has gone in a clear direction of the food and cocktails,” Milgaten said, “and we've decided to focus on those aspects exclusively. So starting in 2016, we are no longer doing live music.”

It’s not exactly a foolhardy decision. The Balboa’s burger operation, once known as Dood’s Foods, has been steadily rising through the ranks of San Diego’s burger joints over the past couple years, and these days, it can confidently boast that they’re one of the best, if not the best, in the city. The folks at Thrillist just named them the Best New Burger of 2015, and other food and drink publications have been raving as well, including San Diego Eater, San Diego Uptown News, Tabelog, FINE Magazine, the Culture Trip and Discover SD, among others.

Seems like those burgers are hot tamales (and with good reason -- they’re delicious). But good enough to bypass offering live music altogether -- which is typically used as a way to boost food and drink sales at bars? Milgaten and the rest of the Balboa Bar & Grill team seem to think so.

“Yeah, it's just taken on a life of its own,” he explained when asked about the increasing popularity of their burgers. “We literally didn't have enough seats for people. We already turned the stage into a huge booth.”

So, there you have it. Looks like we won’t be taking in any more live music at the Balboa Bar & Grill, but with several venues in town still providing plenty of stages for local bands to play, the San Diego music scene will surely adapt. It always does.

In the meantime, who’s down for a burger?

Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Diamond Lakes and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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