There are new drinks, including a menu of “signature cocktails.” The cheapest of these is a “No. 4” (Hoegaarden, Monin Lemon, 7UP, and a lemon squeeze) at $4, and their most expensive, a “No. 7” (Grey Goose La Poire, St. Germain, Kenwood Yulupa sparkling wine), is $8. Beer is $4 a pop for draft Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Sapporo, Newcastle, and Boddingtons, while bottled beers are $3–$4.
The remodel — and entire purchasing process — took under three months, a time frame that according to former bartender Richard “T-Bone” Larson put employees of the old Scolari’s in an unpleasant limbo.
“We heard different things,” he says. “Like, oh, he’s going to fire everybody; oh, he’s going to keep everything the same; oh, he’s going to change it into a reggae club. As it got closer to [when] the sale was going to be final, they canceled all the shows kind of abruptly, and I still had about two months’ worth of shows and touring bands from all over the world scheduled to play at Scolari’s. We had to find a home for them.”
After that, Larson quit, but many others stayed until a few months later, when they were let go.
“It was kind of ugly for a long time,” Larson says. “They gave us all these lame reasons why they couldn’t have shows anymore. ‘We’re being investigated by the cops, we’re getting noise complaints.’ All those things turned out to be false, according to what I’ve heard.”
And they are false, says Lithopoulos. The reason for the cancellation of the bands, he claims, was simple: George Scolari didn’t see the point in renewing his cabaret license — the permit that allows an establishment to have deejays and put on live shows — for the short time it would take for the sale to go through.
“The legality and reality is that it’s just as simple as that,” Lithopolous says. “[Scolari] just simply chose not to renew for a short length of time. Nothing more. The sale was going through within 20 days anyway, so once it went through, we renovated, [and] I got the license.”
The closing of Scolari’s, Larson says, put a lot of people out of work, himself included. After tending bar at Scolari’s for eight years, he thought he had found a new home at Chaser’s in City Heights until that, too, closed in late August, after being purchased by the owners of the Bluefoot Bar in North Park.
“The only indication we had is that for about a week [the previous owner] didn’t stock some of the call liquor, so we’re thinking, ‘Wow, this is kind of weird,’ ” Larson reports. “We were out of pretty much every kind of vodka.”
Eventually, the alcohol came in, but the suspicion was already there. Not long after, the bar shut down. Once again, Larson had to scramble to find venues for the bands lined up to play at Chaser’s, just as he’d had to do at Scolari’s.
The fate of Chaser’s, Larson says, has been somewhat decided. He reports that the new owners plan to keep it a rock club and will reopen after a six-month remodel.
He will not, he says, reapply to work there; the experience has left a bad taste in his mouth.
“I talked to them,” he says, speaking of the new owners. “[One] gave me his card, and he was, like, ‘I know this is really hard for you guys. I know it’s hard on the bands, but it’s a decision we had to make.’ Real businessman-speak. You know how people talk in the business world. I felt it was like a corporate takeover kind of thing. [They were] being [really] placating, but all in all, it’s about business for them.”
Though he thinks the new owners will stick to their word and keep it a rock club, Larson doesn’t think they’re “getting off on a very good foot.”
He elaborates. “Canceling all these shows with no notice is no way to start a venue. I mean, they could have let us finish the shows there or something. They could have done a lot of things [to make] an easier transition.”
The owners of Bluefoot, Adam Cook and Cuong Nguyen, did not return calls for comment.
Back over in North Park, another bar aside from the Office is getting a complete makeover. The pool hall-cum-nightclub known as Shooterz is currently undergoing construction. The front wall and interior have been completely demolished.
This is the work of Eric Lingenfelder and his team, the Verant Group, who own the Tavern in Pacific Beach and Sandbar in Mission Beach, as well as several other locations in Arizona and Georgia. Lingenfelder purchased Shooterz in January and has just begun breaking ground on the construction of his new venture, which will be called True North.
“I started attending the Main Street district meetings,” Lingenfelder says, “[and] the design committee meetings, trying to get a feel for what the community, one, was looking for, and two, what the environment was.” We’re sitting at a conference table in his office on Morena Place. “Were they pro-business, do they want more bars and restaurants? What are they trying to do with North Park? I could see it from my side, but it was a matter of trying to see what the business district [wanted].”
The biggest piece of advice Lingenfelder took from the meetings with Main Street was that North Park needed more open-air dining-and-drinking spaces. With this in mind, he incorporated a streetside patio into his blueprints, which he displays on his laptop.
The plan for True North, construction-wise, is to take out the wall that used to divide Shooterz down the middle and create one big space with a horseshoe-shaped bar in the center, something Lingenfelder says creates “good energy.” The blueprint shows banks of tables and booths on either side of the bar, a small dance floor/deejay booth in the back, and a second outdoor patio to the left of the bar’s entrance.