Eva Knott 1:52 p.m., Nov. 18
Ballpark: Bye El Vitral, hi Southpaw
À la Disney: Is Good Time Design taking over the neighborhood?
So. El Vitral really has closed. For months the bar-eatery with 220 tequilas to choose from and the fabulous view of the ballgames was either having a kitchen fixed or getting organized to start up again.
That was then. Now, I'm standing outside (here at 815 J Street) as the ballpark heats up with tonight’s game, against the Mariners. You can hear the crowd getting worked up. But this place is still window-papered, closed, empty.
And the big, colorful “El Vitral” sign on this ancient brick building has been yanked. The vertical sign-holder jutting off the corner is now blank aluminum, except for a few holes.
Of course no-one can touch the building itself. It's protected. It was the Schiefer & Sons Aeroplane Co. Built 1917, a parachute factory. (Hey, wouldn't that be a great theme for the new guys moving in?)
But doesn't look like that's going to happen. Papers on the windows to stop you looking in...
...tell you what's coming. Around the corner a brand new white on black sign says “Southpaw.”
So out with da iPad. Check the name out. Oh, right. I should’ve guessed. Turns out this is yet another development by a very local restaurant development outfit, Good Time Design. They’re headquartered right nearby at 715 J Street. They must have deep pockets because they're already responsible for creating the Blind Burro, Lucky's Lunch Counter, Bub's @ the Ballpark, Block No. 16, all clustered around Seventh and J. Plus a bunch of others like The Tipsy Crow on Fifth, Knotty Barrel, The Double Deuce, and on and on.
They say Southpaw's gonna be a "Southern barrelhouse-influenced watering hole and eatery," featuring "regionally-inspired kitchen offerings." Décor-wise, it promises lots of "distressed barn timber, industrial age steel, and historical bricks."
Irony? El Vitral management had been applying for months to get permission to put outdoor seating on the broad sidewalk of J street. Seemed like it was never going to happen. Now, even before Southpaw opens, here it is.
It’s great that they’re putting life back into these ballpark area turn-of-century warehouses. My only gripe? These places are all kinda “themed,” a la Disney, trying to make them feel like some other time, some other place. Like, I could be totally wrong, but Southpaw already gives the vibe of Back East, Rocky, industrial grit. What about our time, our place? Will the restaurant developers of 2113 have anything they’ll be able to call “San Diego 2013” when they wanna wax nostalgic?