Rick LaLama: “For now, it's business as usual.”
It seems as though the pending purchase of O’Connell’s nightclub has fallen through.
O’Connell’s, a live-music venue located at 1310 Morena Boulevard, is owned and operated by husband and wife Rick and Lorrie LaLama and has featured thousands of local groups, such as Superunloader, Scarlet Symphony, the Bloody Hollies, Buddy Akai, Joey Harris, the Grams, and Apes of Wrath. The LaLamas were all set to sell their Bay Park bar to Patti Gilstrap, the former owner of the Surf and Saddle Club in Solana Beach, but she backed out at the last minute due to medical issues.
“We were less than a week away from turning over the keys to her,” Rick LaLama told me over the phone. “She had decorators and construction people coming by. She had bands booked and a grand-opening weekend planned.”
If it was a waste of time and money for the potential buyer, it was doubly so for O’Connell’s proprietors and staff.
“Not only did we not have any bands booked for December,” said LaLama, “but we had to scramble to replenish our inventory. I had to call back all of my services so they wouldn’t be shut off. That included cable, gas, electric, phone, trash...and some of my mail is being forwarded.”
To celebrate the sale and bid farewell to their customers, the LaLamas planned a going-away party of sorts. They called it “We’re Outta Here” — a name that should give you a clue about their eagerness to sell. But the deal fell through a few days prior to the event.
“We just did not have time to cancel the party. The bands were booked, the Marines were coming, the food was purchased, the flyers were made, and invitations were sent. I had a knot in my stomach when I had to get in front of 100-plus people and tell them that we weren’t going anywhere.... After I spoke, I felt like a huge load was taken off my shoulders, and I realized that we have a lot of friends. I can’t say that it was like It’s a Wonderful Life, but more like being able to go to your own funeral.”
So what’s next for O’Connell’s and the LaLamas?
“Who knows?” he said. “We plan on putting the bar back on the market, but we’re not in a hurry to sell. For the right people, it’s a good opportunity. For now it’s business as usual.”