La Jolla’s El Sombrero Bar

Bottom right to left: Denny Moore

Bottom L to R: F Denny Moore, Phil (P. Rodney) Brown (RIP) Linda (LB) Brown, (RIP), Dave Holder (RIP), Dave Osborn. Back Right L to R: Earl Gilday, Donny Thomason (RIP) Jack Macpherson (RIP) Photo taken by David Osborn in the El Sombrero around 1972

So we have the Red Mountain Inn, Sip n Surf and Maynard, but if there was any bar in La Jolla, San Diego or in the US for that matter, that should have closed the day they opened, it would have been the El Sombrero. The main thing about El Sombrero, it amazed everyone that they were in business as long as they were, at first, one would think, it was going to be the fastest short lived bar in La Jolla’s history.

The owners (Tony and his wife Betty) must have been some sort of sadomasochist  by the amount of abuse they received every second that bar was open. The bar made Ginders Bachelor party look like a walk through the tulips. No doubt the bar made money, but their overhead costs of restocking the place with tables, chairs, and bathroom accessories, had to have put them out of business.  Interesting…

El Sombrero was right down from the cottages on Fay St in La Jolla. Beside the Spanish flair, it had a balcony floor, but more like an area to split the room height for 18’. And for a reason it was built, still leaves a question to this day. Even if it was only a few feet off the ground, and with a funky wooden railing (that managed to not get broken is a miracle itself)  still many managed to fall over it.

The owners went through about a truckload of sawdust a week to soak up beer and occasional vomit that decorated on the floor by 2am. However, we must give them credit, because they had the best clean-up crew in all of San Diego.  Believe me, that company did earn their pay and probably hated being on contract with El Sombrero.

Now, what made the bar even more nuts, Bill Canning, Billy Humes, and a few others lived across the street …

Pretty much everything you have heard about the place was true. Knock down, drag out bar room brawls, to the story about the flower chick, who wanted to get her boyfriend a present for his birthday and had no money. Some of the boys suggest she should give  blow jobs in the bathrooms for a few bucks. She did, then saw her boyfriend walking down the street and ran to him with a fistful of dollars and laid a big kiss on his lips. Needless to say, it got a few puking/gagging at that one.

The stories were endless because there was little, more likely zero authority from the owners, bartenders and what bouncers?

One time the bartender passed out, and suddenly the place became a FREE bar. Shortly latter the booze was gone, so trips had to be taken to the liquor store.  In a few hours (the bartender still passed out) every table had a bottle of whiskey on it. It looked like some Western bar.

Probably one of the most interesting stories was when some Vietnam vets walked in and all they wanted was to have a few beers. Some Mac Meda boys thought it was funny and lit a string of firecrackers off behind them … both shot out the closed screen door, never to be seen again …

Steve Manns got blamed for the broken screen door and was 86ed. It was probably the first time he got accused of something he never did and, well the rest figured, it was time to go also …

… oh my, what a bar for Mac Meda!

To read more about crazy bar, see Dan’s comments


  1. Greg Dennis says:

    Folksinger wrote a nice song about the El Sombrero called “One More Song,” now available on Spotify and on a live album from Austin.

  2. Bill Matthews says:

    Of course for your listening pleasure they had “The Almost Mediocre Jug Band” playing….

  3. John Abelson says:

    Grafitti on the wall of the men’s room
    El sombrero 1970

    Surf good
    Be good
    Good good

    Also they did have a great hamburger or at least I thought so at the time.

  4. Bill Sowles says:

    Say, didn’t Dave sell the Mountain to Ricardo Rocket and Willy Hotch, and they re-named it the “Hatchcover?”

  5. Patti,don’t forget about the Red Mountain wine parties!All of the usual suspects attended,and as with all good parties with Meda people ,the house was a wreck by,Canning,Humes, you,Babes and others tried to clean the SSA house before the next party. For some strange reason, the house rarely got busted.Great memories of Ross Luhman,Little John,Manns,Burriston,McPherson and a host of others…p.s. how is Barbie?

  6. mark dameron says:

    SSA: PERFECT USE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (see Beachball, above).

  7. Just a reminder of the chili parties & round the world ping-pong games at the Silverado St. house!!! Ahhhh drink much!?!

  8. Humes/Canning/Beachball and Dickie Klinginberg lived in the house across the street from El Ranchero. Humes had a key, and we would go in around 3am and eat chili and drink beer until 6…then off to the courtroom, a bar on prospect. George Bullington managed the place – lots of great parties at the SSA house – so named because of the people who lived there … the “Silverado Street Assholes”

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