North County's Dying Cabaret

Three longtime North County music venues are silenced. One promises to return.

The Calypso Mediterranean Cafe in Leucadia had live music since it opened in 1995. Artists such as Jack Tempchin, Candye Kane, Danny Way, and Semisi filled out the seven-night-a-week blues, jazz, Latin, and acoustic lineups. A kitchen fire closed the café in September. Owner Gilles Knafo says complying with city regulations is slowing down Calypso’s reopening. “We have to bring everything up to code now,” says Knafo, noting that previous deviations from building codes, including wheelchair access, had been grandfathered in. The Calypso is located in a former house on Highway 101. “I don’t want to move anywhere else. Leucadia is very low key.”

When the Surf & Saddle closed in November, it left the Belly Up as the only music venue in Solana Beach. A block from the beach, the Surf & Saddle had bands four nights a week.

Co-owner Patti Gilstrap says her lease at the 58-year-old bar was to expire last month. But she had to leave earlier than planned. The state Alcoholic and Beverage Control (ABC) department revoked her license in October because one of her bartenders sold pot on the job. “If it had been some 23-year-old with tattoos and piercings, maybe you could say I made a bad decision in hiring,” says Gilstrap. “But it was a lady in her late 50s who lived in a senior-citizen complex. She had worked for the phone company for 25 years.… She served 90 days at Las Colinas.” Gilstrap says she eventually sold her liquor license to her landlord, who plans to reopen the bar as an Irish pub without music.

For eight years, Tami Ridley hosted blues, acoustic flamenco, and Irish bands at her Spanish restaurant and wine bar in San Marcos, Friar’s Folly. “We were doing well, but I just decided I wanted to take a break for a while.” Ridley never charged admission as she hosted Skelpin, Ruby and the Redhots, Flamenco Nova, Lisa Sanders, and Jimmy Patton Wednesday through Saturday nights.

“My dream is to eventually open up something that would be a cross between the Belly Up and Anthology — more supper club than the Belly Up but not as high-end as Anthology.”

Ridley says the space in Restaurant Row that housed Friar’s Folly has been vacant since she closed last August.

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As a local jazz musician, it is always hard to hear about North County establishments who have sponsored live performance art for a number of years going out of business; especially venues that have consistently presented a wide variety of musical styles for the public's enjoyment. Support for the arts in San Diego and the County has never been huge so the passing of these establishments is certainly unfortunate for everyone who enjoys being a part of a live musical performance. One can only hope that two of the three owners will persevere and begin again with contributions that will be even better than before.

Jumping Turtle update from owner Matt Hall: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - Members of the Press:

This email is to update the press regarding the ongoing situation involving The Jumping Turtle and the City of San Marcos, CA.

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010 The Law Offices of Everett Delano will be filing additional lawsuits on behalf of The Jumping Turtle, Matthew Hall and Laura Mouradian against 1) The City of San Marcos; 2) San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

The following are the claims listed in the lawsuits:


This lawsuit is a Writ case and is pretty straight forward and quick. Our attorneys requested information from both parties in line with the Freedom of Information Act. Each party was in noncompliance with the Freedom of Information Act. The information requested is not only our right to obtain under the Freedom of Information Act, but it is also very important for our hearings and lawsuit. What is the city trying to hide? We are prepared to show our evidence; where is their evidence? I know some of you have also requested information from both parties and have run into road blocks.

This is just another piece of proof that the City of San Marcos has their own agenda. Also, please don’t tell yourself that the 2/5/2010 incident was just a coincidence. Two days after filing a federal lawsuit an incident like this happens at the Turtle. In seven years nothing of this sort has ever happened at the Turtle. The proof is coming out on that as well. The previous lawsuits will proceed, and we are extremely confident the truth will come out and we will prevail!

Hopefully, we will not be compelled to file further claims/lawsuits, but that can only be determined by the defendants possible further actions. Of course we are prepared to do so if deemed necessary.

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