"This kind of announcement is not easy, especially during a stressful time like this," according to an online post from Ted Wigler at Ocean Beach nightclub Winstons. "And since there is no way to sugarcoat it, here goes..."
1921 Bacon Street, San Diego
"Sadly, after this weekend, Winstons is closing its doors temporarily, until something gives. Our last day open for business will be this Sunday, 11/8, until we are able to either get another loan from Washington, a grant OR if live music starts up again, and we don’t see any of those things happening anytime soon."
With limited hours on Saturday (4:30pm to 10:30pm) and Sunday (8:30am to 8:30pm), this weekend will also mark the final football Sunday.
The venue named for its previous owner, the late Bill Winston, has been operating one block west of the sand between Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Santa Monica since December 1986. By 1990, Winston had transformed the blues and biker bar into a popular hangout for a younger crowd whose tastes skewed toward reggae and hippie jam bands.
"My brother put his blood, sweat, and tears in opening Winstons," recalls Rebecca Winston. "I remember Bill, of course. I wasn't 21 'til '86, so my recollection of the chronology of exact dates were slightly compromised. I'm eternally grateful for the good times that place has provided through the years...I believe my brother’s spirit watches over and he is so very proud that his club carried on with so many phenomenal people that contributed to keep Winstons rockin' on. Praying for a miracle."
Winstons has hosted major touring acts like Randy California & Spirit, NRBQ, Umphrey's McGee, and Los Lonely Boys, as well as national blues-rock acts Lucky Peterson, Poppa Chubby, Jimmy Thackeray, and the late Bugs Henderson. Reggae rock headliners Steel Pulse and Slightly Stoopid have staged residencies there, and ’80s favorites the Blitz Brothers chose the Winstons stage for their first reunion.
Randy California & Spirit playing Winstons 12-1-89
Photo by Jay Allen Sanford
Under new ownership in the late '90s, the venue tried booking funk and even hardcore acts on nights that used to be reserved for Deadheads. The experiment proved shortlived, and soon owners Scott Slaga and Mike Stiffanothe returned the stage to tie-dyed and squinty-eyed bands such as Price of Dope and Electric Waste Band (who played a decades-long weekly residency that had run every Monday night since February 3, 1992, until COVID-19 ended the longstanding OB ritual).
The venue also hosted early evening entertainment such as trivia and comedy, as well as a longtime karaoke night hosted by Jose Sinatra. A Fox TV pilot called Mythological X starring Eric Balfour as a rock and roll frontman was partially shot there in 2008.
"So many good memories," recalls local bandleader Alfred Howard, who remains optimistic that the closure is temporary. "I hope those doors stay open for a long time when things stabilize. I also hope things stabilize."
"Wintons is Elektric Voodoo's spot and this makes me so sad to hear," says Scott Tournet. "Let's hope something gives and you all can come back from this. This has been a brutal year for so many of us. There will be an end to this."
Todd Goodnough of Modern Day Moonshine concurs. "This can't and won't be the end. After gigging and meeting beautiful folk there for 15-plus years. Forging lifelong friendships. So many memories and bonds formed. We can't imagine an OB without it. I pray this will just be remembered as a minor hiccup in a long, long legacy."
Hymie Scott at Hodad's on Newport Avenue is worried about a domino effect. "If Winstons goes, so do I. Any place that can't figure out keeping Winstons alive has no life support for my fat ass either."
OB lost Mother's Saloon to COVID-related closure in May. In the 1960s, that venue at 2228 Bacon Street hosted burlesque clubs such as the Red Garter and the G Lounge. The owner of the property and the building, realtor Sachiko Swall, later opened a live music venue and nightclub at the locale called Dream Street, which operated for nearly two decades. Dream Street's latter-day owner Billy Savino announced its closure at the beginning of January, 2011. The owner of Canvas Hair Studio on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach, Shelby Wickersheim, assumed the business and its unrestricted liquor license (dancing, live music, liquor pours until 2 a.m.), rechristening the club Mother's. The purchase did not include the land or building title.