Why is the Tiki House closing after 39 years of hosting bands in Pacific Beach? Could it be that the roadhouse couldn't keep up with the much larger bars? Was P.B. becoming too precious for a funky dive like the Tiki House?
Regulars, who sat on stools and empty kegs as they watched bands such as Superunloader, Joey Harris and the Mentals, and the Nards say it was mostly because of the landlord.
Joey Harris onstage at the Tiki House
“Tiki Dave [Miller, owner] told me the landlord, John Nobel, was jacking up the rent from $5000 to $8000,” says Fish Tacos frontman Rich Kunz. “It was the last place in P.B. that had live music consistently. The 710 Club has bands, but they also have DJs and game nights. The Tiki House was the last place in P.B. that is not a cheesy bar with TV screens all over and a bunch of P.B. douchebags in muscle shirts who came from everywhere but San Diego.
“Dave had that place for more than 30 years,” Kunz told the Reader. “He told me he put $100,000 into the place — all of his retirement — hoping the place would pick back up. He's losing everything. He's barely making rent now. Now it goes up $3000… He's on a month-to-month lease.”
One insider says it is important to note that the Tiki is only 1100 square feet, which means the new rent would be at minimum a jaw dropping $7.25 per square foot. The insider says the same fate befell another Nobel P.B. renter, the Zanzibar Café, which closed five months ago.
“There was a 300-square-foot taco shop two doors down,” says the insider. “They just closed for the same reason. Their new asking rent is $9500.”
Kunz acknowledges that the Tiki is out of place in the new P.B.
“People who are walking outside going to all the dance places don't even think twice about walking into the Tiki. We're talking guys with big muscles who would love to fight if you said anything at all to them. I've been there when the place was packed and then again I might go in on a weekend and there might be seven people.”
Kunz is hopeful his punk-country-surf band could play at a Tiki House should it reopen in a better spot. “It would be nice if Dave could open a new place anywhere but on the Garnet strip.”
Miller says he has a prospective buyer who is looking to buy his business, but, “It's not looking good. Nobel hit him with the $8000 in rent. Nobel rents to all the medical marijuana shops. Those are the only places that will pay him the $8 per square foot. So, he thinks all his properties are worth that. He is making it impossible for me to sell my business because of how much he is charging. To jump that much is absurd.”
Miller says he will know October 29 after the prospective new tenant meets with Nobel whether the Tiki House will be sold. If it is sold, he says the Tiki House may continue for another month or two. “It's looking pretty negative... I don't know if it's just [Nobel's] greed or he gets off ruining other people's American dream. Or maybe I hung on too long.”
Miller says he has been with theTiki House since 1974, first as manager and then as owner since 1980. He doesn't think he will reopen elsewhere.
“I'm 64. I'm running out of energy. I'm out of gas mentally, physically, and monetarily. I've put a couple hundred thousand dollars in over the past few years. Either I was too stubborn or too stupid to quit. I wasn't planning to go out this way, but this way I guess I'll be an urban legend,” he says with a laugh.
He says if it is the end, the last day of the Tiki House will be November 2, with bands playing half-hour sets starting at 1 p.m. The Nards, MacAnannys, Deep in the Shed, and Psychic Vacuum are set to play. “I can't even remember all the bands who have played here over the years. I hope they come back.”
Joey Harris says he is both happy and sad. “Dave has been struggling with the martini bars and discos in P.B. for too long, so I'm happy for him. But this is just one more death knell for live rock and roll in San Diego.”
Nobel did not respond to a request for comment.