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“No matter what happens,” Chris Heaney declares with a grin, “no matter if the economy’s good or bad, you’ve got to drink.”

He stands behind the bar at Club Kadan, the Adams Avenue bar he owns, serving a round of beers to a handful of afternoon customers.

Even in this particularly rough economic patch, Heaney is right on the money, so to speak. While the country struggles, one business venture continues to boom, at least here in San Diego: bars.

In the past year, several of San Diego’s better-known establishments have changed hands, most recently Shooterz and Scolari’s Office in North Park and the Zombie Lounge (which Heaney has purchased) and Chaser’s in City Heights. Each is being remodeled: Shooterz, at the time of this writing, is in the process of being gutted, behind a protective layer of plywood; Scolari’s Office has been completely reinvented as “the Office”; the Zombie Lounge has been rechristened “the Radio Room”; and Chaser’s is closed indefinitely.

The opinions on the current remodels — and remodels-in-progress — have been mixed. Sebastian Ulloa, drummer for the local band Batwings, misses his old haunt, Scolari’s. The night the new Office opened, he got a peek at the digs after meeting a few pals at the Pink Elephant. He wasn’t thrilled.

“There were several of us, several friends I’ve made just from going out to the bars, and we had all discussed taking a trip over there to see what it was like,” he recalls. “It was a group of maybe ten of us that walked into the bar, looked around — nobody ordered a drink — and we left immediately.”

Ulloa, who used to book bands for Scolari’s, says a lot of people don’t want to like the new bar.

“There’s an attitude that they’re not going to like it before they walk in,” he says. We’re sitting at a table at Lestat’s Coffee House in Normal Heights. “They don’t want to support the people that took away what we liked before. There really was a sense of community with the people that frequented Scolari’s.”

Lety Gonzalez, a longtime patron of Scolari’s and diehard dive-bar fan, was a member of that community.

We meet outside the Filter Cafe on 30th and Lincoln. “Scolari’s Office was this run-down little shack that’s been there forever,” she says, “really hole-in-the-wall, and it was nice. I loved going there because it had the feel of a grungy basement where you used to drink when you were in high school, compared to an upscale bar now in the middle of a street that’s not really up to par completely. North Park is coming up, but it’s not quite there.”

Daye Salani, who wrote an unfavorable review of the original Scolari’s on Yelp.com, a site that allows the public to rate and discuss local businesses of all stripes, disagrees and is heavily in favor of the reinvention of the old place.

“I wasn’t a fan at all of Scolari’s,” he says, over a coffee at Gelato Vero on India Street. “I’ve been a dozen times, and every time there was some sort of drama, either a fight breaking out on the sidewalk or a crappy sound system or just drunk jerks. So when I heard that the Bar Dynamite owners were taking over the Office, I thought it was a good thing. For the most part, the one time I’ve been there, I enjoyed it. It was very clean; the clientele was very fun.”

Other people on Yelp feel the same way, some urging bar-goers to lighten up about the change, others echoing Salani’s distaste for the atmosphere at Scolari’s.

“Variety is the spice of life, and if people can’t deal with it, I say just stick to what you like,” says Patricia V. in her review. “Just because a place cleans up and has a bouncer doesn’t mean you’re suddenly in [Pacific Beach] or [downtown]. I love me [sic] dive bars and all, but it’s nice to have a selection of places to visit in one neighborhood.”

“They seem to keep it classy but don’t make it douchy [sic],” says Lance R. “North Park is a nicer place now, so I think it deserves a classy place like this instead of a filthy scum hole that smells like puke and butt, where homeless people/gutter punks hang out.”

While the “riff-raff,” as Salani describes some of the former Scolari’s fans, are gone, he does recognize that the old Scolari’s was a popular destination.

“Most of the people in this town, most of my friends, they loved Scolari’s,” he says. “They thought it was such a fun, classic dive bar, in the sense of what a dive bar is. You know, it smelled weird, it had character, there was always something going on.”

Salani thinks that perhaps his Yelp review of Scolari’s was a bit too strong, yet it was, ultimately, his opinion.

“I think it was harsh what I said,” he explains. “You know, ‘shit bar’ or ‘shit hole for shit people’ — because there are people [for whom] that place was very near and dear. I wasn’t one of them. You have all day to convince me [otherwise], and if the pros outweigh cons, I am willing to delete my story on Yelp. But until then, I’m keeping it up.”

Richard “T-Bone” Larson, a former bartender at Scolari’s, remembers seeing the review.

“He’s talking about me,” he says of Salani’s “shit bar for shit people” comment. “It’s just kind of like all that we worked for there is for nothing because people just want a nice, glitzy bar, you know?”

And some do, preferring the revamps of other old favorites. On Yelp, a user named Teresita C. provides a favorable opinion of the new Radio Room.

“So the tetanus factor and grime might be gone from the place, but the former Zombie Lounge is now a much better place to see music,” she writes in her review. “Given more than just a corner/afterthought to play their tunes, bands can rock out on a bigger stage, and there is a nice little patch of floor if you think you can dance. Don’t let the ’80s pleather/chrome vibe scare you off, this is a fresh new update on an old fave.”

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Comments

basilisk Feb. 4, 2009 @ 11:21 p.m.

A couple of comments:

  1. The Office, $7 for a Jack Daniels and water is not a good price. The place does look good Though.

  2. Bluefoot, Lousy acoustics and too many TVs. But lots of women go there.

  3. U-31, they have the same clientele as Buster Daly's did. Plus the metal ceiling does not sound very good.

  4. Pink Elephant, my favorite. You can hold a conversation there.

I am still exploring.

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bluenwhitegokart Feb. 5, 2009 @ 3:41 a.m.

I never went to the Office because the women were there...I went to drink and shoot the s***.

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rbtpdr Feb. 5, 2009 @ 5:57 p.m.

The Soda Bar, or the old Chaser's has been opened up for months now. You can just drive right by and see it! A+ reporting!

As far as "The Office" goes, I've checked it out. The place makes me sick. It's nothing like Scolari's Office. Anyone in their right mind should have known that those changes were not going to fly with the PBR crowd. If Lithopoulos wanted to keep the regulars he should at least have bands play all the time instead of pointless DJs. And it's once your in there for a minute, the whole thing is just kind of boring and it feels incredibly forced. It's not as nice as some downtown place, you can't justify paying $5 for a well whiskey and coke when there's no touring bands playing, it's too dark, the clientele sucks, the bartenders suck, the suit wearing doorman sucks.

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JamieRoxx Feb. 5, 2009 @ 10:55 p.m.

Personally as someone who lives across the street from the Office, I have to say the remodel is a great improvement. The bottom line is "the PBR" crowd did not spend any money. I know that everyone assumes that these bars were open and in business just so that people could hang out, and bands that no one had ever heard of could play. No people they were there to make money.

And as far as everyone freaking out...well open your own bar. Of course that would take a little more than sitting around bitching about your lost clubhouse.

Give me a break. NorthPark is looking good...finally.

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rbtpdr Feb. 6, 2009 @ 2:23 a.m.

How's living in an ugly condo complex working out for your JamieRoxx?

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rbtpdr Feb. 6, 2009 @ 2:24 a.m.

JamieRoxx is pissed John Tesh never played at Scolari's

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rbtpdr Feb. 6, 2009 @ 2:41 a.m.

And since Yelp.com is the be all end all of how much a place matters:

Scolari's has 3 1/2 stars http://www.yelp.com/biz/scolaris-office-san-diego

The Office has 3 stars http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-office-bar-san-diego

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weeee Feb. 6, 2009 @ 3:31 a.m.

Well, when JamieRoxx moved into the groundfloor of a $400K+ glorified haphazard apartment via a subprime loan, she probably had no idea that her condo would lose half of its value within 2 years.

The Office, for all intents and purposes, is failing. Mr. Lithopoulos probably didn't realize that a cool million bucks doesn't equate to charm, a large group of regulars, or being able to turn a profit. I'm pretty sure that he's been on the record about not wanting the old crowd back, which is funny now when he's imploring the old regulars to at least try coming back. See, the thing that made North Park cool in the first place was the music. Scolaris never had a cover, even when you were going to see relatively popular bands playing an intimate venue. You could walk to Scolaris, and see awesome or awful bands play, for free. Meanwhile, the bar would pay the bands from the bar. So, bands would be paid quite well, people would show up just because they didn't have to pay for the privilege, and the bar would make tons of cash because everyone was able to stumble home, safely. This was when DJ nights were a relatively rare thing in North Park. Now you can go and pay more money to hear someone's "eclectic" playlist. If there are 5 bars having DJs on the same night, then nothing is unique or "eclectic", which was the North Park buzzword... circa 2008.

Theres a certain kind of uptight, self-righteous, extroverted pricks that do reviews on Yelp.com. Please don't dream up business plans from just those kinds of people... they'll be the first to come and tell you how rad of a job you've done before being attracted to whatever douchey "thing" is next. Lets all eat sushi off of naked Suicide Girls while DJ McDouche spins some eclectic urban oontz oontz funkpunk piano beatz in a Guantanamo-style cage suspending over lasers and water in City Heights before the Gaslamp picks up on it!

In all seriousness, Mr. Heaney did the right thing, which is why I walk to the Radio Room every weekend. If he paid bands from the bar, and not from covers, then I'd be all set. Make live music a threat again.

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Jose619 Feb. 6, 2009 @ 7:59 a.m.

Agreed. The Office sucks balls now. Same thing happened to second wind on ECB. It used to be a neighborhood dive joint, with a bunch of locals, but since the dude bought it and made it "Gilly's", it is now a boring Karoake bar with a bunch of college yuppies who play kickball. Thank God for Tobacco Rhonda's and the Amigo Spot!!!!

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adamcrisis Feb. 6, 2009 @ 5:25 p.m.

Lets all eat sushi off of naked Suicide Girls while DJ McDouche spins some eclectic urban oontz oontz funkpunk piano beatz in a Guantanamo-style cage suspending over lasers and water in City Heights before the Gaslamp picks up on it!

HAHAHAHA!

RAD

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adamcrisis Feb. 6, 2009 @ 5:27 p.m.

also for the record...sometimes an "upgrade' is a bullshart term to disguise a useless money gouge

upgrade my balls Mr Lithopoulos

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Fred Williams Feb. 6, 2009 @ 7:05 p.m.

It's Friday Night...those sushi bellied beauties have only about an hour to live and I'm hungry.

Rest assured I'll have along condoms, goggles and earplugs. You can't be too safe in North Park...especially when McDouche is resonating oontz oontz, the lasers flash and walls shake - faux furniture falls forward and doomed damsels dash dire plans, slipping sashimi, spilling the soy-wasabi down to their...

Mmmmm...

Thanks for the tip!

Rev. Dr. Fred "Fish" Williams Rector and Docent; Faith Always Reviving Tabernacle Director; Churches Allied for Spiritual Hope 202 Bullshart Street San Diego, CA 92101

All you desperate bar hopping posers, you who want to change your lives...

Make your checks and money orders out to the Churches Allied for Spiritual Hope, or simply "C.A.S.H."

Our first task is to sample all the vice and pretension so rampant in San Diego first hand. Your generous donations, along with the Fine Food For Fred Fund (5F) and Parents Eternally Rejecting Vulgar Eroticism (PERVE) support this important mission.

Give now and from your heart to help me confront this lifestyle to which none of you should ever be exposed. Though I sacrifice and risk all, it's in humble service to a greater cause.

Peace upon you my children. I eagerly await your donations.

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adamcrisis Feb. 7, 2009 @ 10:50 a.m.

Beautiful Mr Williams, I got a little blurry eyed reading it.

And as funny as it was, I think the true joke is someone spending a million boners on "The Office".

30th and University might be the new Meryl Lynch.

For those curious or out of the loop. The Radio Room is a good spot and kudos to the owner for keeping with the theme and not trying to open some new crap hole that wants to cater to the collars up crowd coughSoda Barcough.

Also the Ken Club, The Alibi, and The Tower are still out there to be enjoyed, where one can get his load on and not drop all his kitty.

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