Green Room

Croce’s getting pushed out of the Gaslamp district?

posted at 2:00 pm on April 15, 2013 by

Chatizens of The Ed Morrissey Show know that Jim Croce is my favorite all-time recording artist, but fewer know that his widow Ingrid is one of my favorite restaurateurs on the West Coast.  For more than 30 years, Croce’s has been an integral part of San Diego’s Gaslamp district, helping to transform the once-troubled downtown area into a successful and popular cultural center.  On the too-rare occasions when I get to San Diego, one of the most pleasant of California’s cities, I always make time for a lunch or dinner at Croce’s.  A few years ago, I even got to introduce my friend Elizabeth Crum to the Croce’s experience.

Now, however, the Gaslamp district that Croce’s helped create will no longer have the restaurant as one of its crown jewels, thanks to a dispute between the restaurant and its landlord over the activities of another tenant:

The key sticking point in negotiations grew out of concerns raised by Croce and her husband about the sometimes loud music and vibrations emanating from the Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse, a burlesque-style nightclub operating below the Keating Hotel. They said they lost business when diners and bar patrons would walk out, sometimes in the middle of their meals.

Kaen said language was inserted into the lease that required the restaurant to “co-exist with other uses in the building, plain and simple,” typical of what is expected in a commercial lease.

Croce called it a “suicide clause,” and she and her husband had instead sought language that entitled the restaurant to financial remedies on those occasions when the music was so loud it interfered with business and a compromise could not be reached. She said she was awaiting a formal response to her proposal when she got word that lease talks were over.

It wasn’t just the noise, either, in a twist that’s a bit ironic considering the improvements in the Gaslamp district since Croce invested in the last shared dream of her late husband.  Croce’s husband and business partner Jimmy Rock explains:

It wasn’t just the noise, though, that the couple found bothersome. Jimmy Rock said he had also complained about the young women clad in lingerie-style clothing standing in front of the restaurant soliciting customers for the nightclub while families were dining there. Kaen points out that it is not unusual for Gaslamp clubs to use women dressed in skimpy clothing to drum up business.

Croce taped this emotional message to announce the closure, and the origins of the dream:

Their new location on Banker’s Hill will stay on track for opening, but the Gaslamp district will be the poorer for the loss.  It sounds like it will be the tawdrier, too.

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Every time I’m in San Diego I always make a point to go to Croce’s. This is too bad.

steebo77 on April 15, 2013 at 2:33 PM

My very first girlfriend gave me a 45 record of “Time in a Bottle” for Christmas, when we were sophomores in high school. She was the smartest, prettiest girl I had ever met and I was totally stunned, bewildered and amazed that she was interested in me.

Her father sold their cluster of fast food restaurants and moved the family to Houston the end of our sophomore year. That broke my heart and I’m pretty sure she was not too happy about it either (boy, am I sure about that).

I listen to a lot of different music, so I can’t say Jim Croce is a large part of my music collection, but I do have a pretty complete collection of his works and listen to him fairly regularly. “Time in a Bottle” will always hold a special place in my heart, for what was and what might have been.

Grinch on April 15, 2013 at 2:36 PM

I’ll make a point of dining there at least once before they move. I’m glad they have another location to move to.

theCork on April 15, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Croce’s and Quatro Milpas, my two favorite San Diego restaurants (and both totally different), about 2 miles apart…what a shame that Croce’s has to move because of someone else’s foolishness.

right2bright on April 15, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, and Cat Steven. Three great artists that are no longer with us.

yongoro on April 15, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Cat Stevens is still with us as far as I know, albeit with a different name.

Never been to Croce’s, but I don’t go to SD very often, either.

Bob's Kid on April 15, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Cat Stevens, last time I looked, was on the no-fly list, under his Muslim name.

herm2416 on April 15, 2013 at 5:10 PM

My wife and I got married on “Time In a Bottle,” so when we moved to SD nearly twenty years ago, Croce’s was one of the first places we hit. We… were not impressed (putting this politely) with our meals and haven’t been back since. Probably should’ve given it another chance. Ah, well. Hopefully their current pinch will drum up more business.

apostic on April 15, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Croce’s will be quite a loss. I only ate their once with four business acquaintances, but the food was terrific and the restaurant’s own music a fun change of pace. Almost everything else in the district is simply overpriced.

doufree on April 15, 2013 at 5:48 PM

There’s some guy, Yusuf something, that covers Cat’s old songs but he’s no Cat Stevens.

yongoro on April 15, 2013 at 5:56 PM

Ingrid and her son AJ are some of the nicest people out there. Too bad for the Gaslamp District.

Hostile Gospel on April 15, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Too bad Ms. Croce couldn’t get Leroy Brown to ‘talk’ to the landlord and/or the management of the offensive business. He’d have taken care of it!

Marcola on April 15, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Kaen points out that it is not unusual for Gaslamp clubs to use women dressed in skimpy clothing to drum up business.

We call them “host-titutes” They plague the sidewalk in front of every Gaslamp bar and restaurant….not just clubs as Kaen mentions.

oceansidecon on April 15, 2013 at 8:02 PM

Ingrid and her son AJ are some of the nicest people out there. Too bad for the Gaslamp District.

Hostile Gospel on April 15, 2013 at 6:10 PM

They just bought a restaurant in Bankers Hill…just north of downtown. I am looking forward to see what they bring to my sleepy neighborhood.

oceansidecon on April 15, 2013 at 8:05 PM

My all time favorite song is Croce’s “Operator.” Introduced to me by my high school sweetheart nearly 40 years ago, it still contains the most heartbreaking lyrics of any song:

So I can call just to tell them I’m fine
and to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
Only wish my words could convince myself
that it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels.

And, of course, the image of a man in a phone booth just trying to grapple with a lost love with the only person he has to talk to: the operator:

Thank you for your time.
You’ve been so much more than kind.
You can keep the dime . . .

40 years listening to that song. I never turn it off when it comes on.

joekoday on April 15, 2013 at 10:47 PM

That’s sad news, but hopefully, the new location will bring more prosperity to Jim Croce’s family.

I remember “discovering” Jim Croce in 1972 while doing time in the US Army. His untimely death saddens me to this day. I occasionally visit YouTube to watch him sing, and his songs still hit me the way they did in the ’70’s. “I’ve Got a Name” makes me think of all the sons who have lost their fathers. “Time in a Bottle” spoke to my feelings for the young lady who became my wife 37 years ago.

Thanks for the memories, Jim. You too, Ed.

Know It All on April 16, 2013 at 9:19 AM

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