Those recently visiting the East Village area in downtown San Diego may have noticed construction workers and signs of two new venues that will replace the former Fleetwood restaurant.
For the last five months, Ty Hauter and his team at Good Time Design have been converting the corner of J Street and Seventh Avenue into the Blind Burro, a Baja California coastal cuisine restaurant; and the Cat Eye Club, an intimate 1960s-style bar and lounge.
Hauter purchased the 5,500-square-foot Fleetwood because of its location.
It is across the street from his sports bar Bub’s at the Ballpark, and next to his nightclub Block No. 16 and sandwich shop Lucky’s Lunch Counter.
“I just thought it was the finishing piece as far as an entrance to the Ballpark District,” Hauter said, referring to it as “entertainment alley.”
The Blind Burro will be taking up the front of the old Fleetwood building, and is being transformed into "coastal Mexico meets New Mexico" with a desert Southwest vibe that will carry throughout its dishes, beverages and décor.
“We’ll serve fish, shrimp, chicken, good meats with coastal Baja (California) style seasonings and ingredients and pairings,” said Frank Miller, managing partner at the Blind Burro. “We don’t want to pigeon-hole the place.
The new East Village eatery has the look of a beach-side hangout spot in Mexico.
The reclaimed wood flooring has been charred in certain parts for an antique look and has a polished finish.
Tables and bar countertops are also made of lumber, complete with dates of established tequilas engraved into the wood. The interior bar has countertops integrated with beach glass, and there is Mexican pottery, tile and brick finishes in various parts of the restaurant.
Mounted on the walls are artifacts from the Southwest region, such as saddles, skulls of bulls and steer, and coastal treasures like seashells.
The 4,800-square-foot restaurant will feature two bars, including one outside where guests can walk up to drink and eat in a sectioned-off seating area, similar to what you might find in a Mexican port town.
The place will offer top-shelf and hard to find tequilas and mezcales, along with a separate tasting and dining area for eight people. Local and Mexican beer will be on tap with special seasonal brews.
At night the restaurant will convert into more of a lounge with regional Spanish music, coastal country soft rock and some funk music playing in the background.
The Blind Burro was scheduled to have a "soft opening" on Friday, Dec. 14, with expanded hours by mid- to late-January and brunch by February.
The back room of the old Fleetwood is being converted into a separate establishment, the Cat Eye Club.
The upscale, intimate bar and lounge is for approximately 50 people and it takes on a 1960s feel, with cues from television shows like "Mad Men" and "The Playboy Club."
The 700-square-foot venue is designed to feel like a penthouse in New York City or Chicago, with a soundtrack featuring music from the early 1960s, 1970s Motown and modern R&B hits.
The hallway that leads from the front of the Fleetwood is being blocked off, and there will only be access to the Cat Eye Club via a non-assuming entrance on Seventh Avenue.
“I wanted to do a smaller intimate [1960s] time period concept,” Hauter explained, adding the Cat Eye Club will have a dress code. “I don’t think this would have worked as a large scale, so we went for more of a smaller target. And it gave me an opportunity to break it away from (the Blind Burro).”
No official opening date has been set for the Cat Eye Club yet, but Hauter hopes to open it up sometime in January.
Hauter and his construction management team at Good Time Design were the general contractors and designers on this $2.5 million acquisition, renovation and transformation project.
Moving forward, Hauter plans to continue his “entertainment alley” vision in the Ballpark District, with the opening of a new multilevel Southern rock and urban pop dance club Moonshine Flats on Sixth Avenue, off J Street and around the block from the Blind Burro and the Cat Eye Club.
It will also have a 100-foot bar. The club is scheduled to open in April.
In the spring, Hauter and Miller plan to open a collaboration restaurant and local beer tap and tasting room with chef Rich Sweeney and Tailgate Beer owner Wesley Keegan.
Tailgate Tap and Terrace will be located in the Park at the Park at Petc,o and is replacing the old Wine Steals locale.
“The goal since we started down here was to, quite frankly, create an alternative area for the locals besides just Fifth (Avenue) and also create a new little district,” Hauter said.