Eric Leitstein spent 13 years building up Canes, the oceanfront venue that brought Prince, Linkin Park, Maroon 5, and Snoop Dogg to Mission Beach. In October of last year, Leitstein was squeezed out when landlord Tom Lochtefeld would not renew Leitstein’s lease, opting to take over the Canes space himself. Lochtefeld remodeled the restaurant/music venue and renamed it Sound Wave, a 700-capacity club that presents national and local artists.
Lochtefeld, who owns Wave House, the restaurant and pay-to-surf amusement complex next door to Sound Wave, holds the lease on Belmont Park, the seven acres of City-owned land that houses the historic Plunge pool and Big Dipper roller-coaster, carnival-style attractions, and beach gift shops.
On November 3, Lochtefeld filed for bankruptcy, blaming the City, which jacked his rent up from $70,000 to $480,000 a year. Lochtefeld has said in other publications that the unfair increase caused him to go belly up.
Last week, a court ruled that Lochtefeld can continue to operate Belmont Park as a bankrupt entity through February 11, while he negotiates with the City over the rent.
Lochtefeld would not respond to a request for comment, but music-industry insiders weighed in.
“[Lochtefeld] lost his best tenant, and he also lost a good monthly paycheck [from Canes/Leitstein],” says one scene veteran, who suggests that it’s not as easy to run a music venue as Lochtefeld may have thought. “It is a great location, but there is a science to running a venue. I don’t think business is as good for Sound Wave as it was for Canes, and I think he’s now just crying sour grapes to the City.”
One person with knowledge of Belmont operations says that Canes/Leitstein paid more than $300,000 a year in rent, which was more than four times Lochtefeld’s total rent on his lease. If Canes were still paying rent, it would cover more than half of Lochtefeld’s proposed new rent to the city.
When contacted, Leitstein said he could not comment on the bankruptcy or the status of Sound Wave, since he sold Canes’ liquor license to Lochtefeld and agreed in legal documents to make no such comments. Leitstein did say, however, that he wants to get back into the music business, somewhere else or in his old spot. “If the City wanted to have me as a tenant [at Belmont Park], I would be happy to oblige them and pay fair market rent.”
A different live-music professional says that Sound Wave books fewer big-name headliners compared to Canes and that it has narrowed its focus of music. “It is excruciatingly reggae. They are missing about 80 percent of the entire spectrum. It’s like having a Winstons show two times a week. Because they are on City land, I don’t think they can afford to have any problems, so they avoid a lot of punk and hip-hop shows.”
Sound Wave is not all reggae. It recently announced shows by indie rockers Transfer and Latex Grenade and hosted a Friday-night comedy showcase. “Bands tell me they miss the old, loose vibe that Canes used to have,” said the insider.
Sound Wave talent-buyer Shane Berry did not respond to a request for comment.