The appeal of 98 Bottles

Choose from about 20 rotating taps, six-packs, sake, wine, soju... agave wine, and local, organic appetizers.
  • Choose from about 20 rotating taps, six-packs, sake, wine, soju... agave wine, and local, organic appetizers.

98 Bottles

2400 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)

Taking their name from a twist on the drawn-out folk song (the 99th bottle presumably being the one in your hand), 98 Bottles lends its own flourishes to the bottle-shop/beer-lounge arrangement that is on the rise around town — especially in its Little Italy neighborhood.

The lounge invites you to choose from about 20 rotating taps, bottled-brew six-packs ($1.75 to $7.99 each), sake, wine, soju, agave wine, and local, organic appetizers (including some of the best homemade kimchi I’ve ever had at $2 a plate) to enjoy in their polished living-room atmosphere, but it’s the Back Room that sets 98 Bottles apart from other shops in the area.

“My business partners are from the theater world,” says co-owner Chris Hjerling. “They used to perform on Broadway. Back in the day, lots of clubs had live-music places behind their bar. We wanted a big back-room space where there is something always going on.”

Perhaps ample spectacle space is only to be expected from a trio of owners including the former owners of the Cygnet Theatre in Old Town and Hjerling, whose eclectic history most recently saw him managing the traveling cadaver anatomy exhibit, Bodies, in Hawaii.

The Back Room’s lineup includes regular installments of Painting and Vino — an art class paired with wine — trivia, CD-release parties, fashion shows, private events, and jazz nights, many formerly presented by the renowned Dizzy’s (check out Robert Bush’s Jam Session blog reviews for more).

Ditch the cover charge for a free monthly concert presented by the Homegrown Hour, San Diego’s longest running local-music radio show, showcasing up-and-coming talent. This month’s presentation features Caresa Lynnett, Sunday Hustle, and As the Crow Flies on Friday, January 18.

Street parking is readily available and is free after 6 p.m. and all day Sunday. Airport Parking Garage is a few blocks away at Kettner and Laurel ($9/24 hours).

Anticipating the arrival of three new bars down Kettner, Hjerling says, “It’s such an art-and-design district. It’s definitely the burgeoning area of San Diego.”

Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 5 p.m. ’til midnight. Last call for to-go beer, 10:30 p.m.
Happy: 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday and all day Wednesday — $5 off bottles of wine; $4 drafts and house wine; $2 off sake samplers, big bottled beers, and flatbreads; $1 off wine and sake glass and rice bowls
Cards: cool

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Hey Chad, Thanks for the shout-out! I practically lived at 98 Bottles last year. Steve, Jill and Chris are very cool people.

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