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James Brennan

EnDev's CEO takes chic from the city to the sand

James W. Brennan, CEO and partner of EnDev Enterprises LLC, says if you want to make money and enjoy life, you've got to take risks.

"We were told that we were crazy when we spent $7 million on Stingaree," he said. "But we paid it off in a year and a half."

The San Diego hot spot and high-style mega-club was rated No. 6 by MSN in the category of top 10 new bars in the United States and made Condé Nast's 2007 Hot List.

With 22,000 square feet equipped for corporate and social events, and a 2,000-capacity nightclub and dining space, Stingaree's clientele ranges from CEOs making deals to 30- to 40-something jet set singles partying hard on $350 bottle service.

Brennan and the EnDev team, whose business, in part, is to discover what's missing and enliven local nightlife, brought bottle service -- alcohol purchased by the bottle with VIP privileges and luxury table service -- to San Diego in 2003 when he and president and partner Damien Farrel introduced Side Bar. The exclusive bar features New York-style lounging, and their model has become the norm for high-end clubbing in San Diego.

Brennan attributes EnDev's success to the strengths of his partners and partnerships. "I've been blessed with some leadership skills, but it comes down to having a great team, putting the right people in place and setting them up for success," he said.

EnDev's key players include Dana Shertz, a 20-year veteran in management, sales and marketing; Mitchell T. Compton II, with more than 10 years as a successful real estate executive; Michael Georgopoulos, with 16 years of expertise in restaurant and entertainment logistics; and Farrell, whose leadership in design development and build-out has changed the face of entertainment in San Diego.

Brennan said EnDev treats all its employees like family. When hiring employees, "The quality I search for immediately is integrity," Brennan said. "A willingness to work a hard and to put in the hours."

"We've lost less than 5 percent of our staff, and in this business that's remarkable," he added.

EnDev's fiscal accomplishments -- Brennan expects the company to make $35 million in 2008 -- coupled with its rapid growth and voguish development might also explain its ability to retain staff.

EnDev recently made its way from the city to the sand, combining downtown chic with beach casual -- flip-flop meets Gucci. Bar West is a popular destination for fashion-forward sunset hipsters and was voted by Citysearch 2007 as San Diego's best beach bar.

The team will soon open Universal, an 11,000-square-foot restaurant and lounge, and is remodeling the prominent Top of the Cove in La Jolla.

Brennan, a father of two including a 6-month-old son, is busy these days.

"Sleep's overrated," he said. "I need only a maximum of four, five hours a night."


Chung Klam is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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