Croce’s getting pushed out of the Gaslamp district?
posted at 2:00 pm on April 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
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.