Kona Kai relaunch

Talent-buyer Aguirre hopes to revitalize port resort Kona Kai.
  • Talent-buyer Aguirre hopes to revitalize port resort Kona Kai.

Kona Kai Resort & Marina

1551 Shelter Island, Shelter Island

Shawna Aguirre learned a lot during her years (2003–2012) as talent buyer for Humphrey’s Backstage Lounge. She spearheaded weekly blues and singer/songwriter nights. She gave a lot of local jazz, rock, and acoustic artists a chance to play regular gigs, and she continued the practice of using the 180-seat room as a showcase for national touring artists such as Guitar Shorty, John Lee Hooker Jr., and Jackiem Joyner.

Aguirre (who acted independently from the Humphrey’s outdoor concert series) is about to make a major move that could have an impact on local musicians. And it will be adjacent to her former Shelter Island employer.

Aguirre is putting together a live entertainment lineup for the lounge/restaurant at the Kona Kai resort and at its outdoor beach.

“In the ’60s and ’70s, Kona Kai was one of the more exclusive places in San Diego,” says Aguirre. “JFK and all kinds of celebrities would stay there. The nightclub was exclusive, high-end. Over the years it kind of lost its limelight.”

Aguirre is now the entertainment director for Noble House Hotels, which purchased Kona Kai in December. “The goal is to revive a legend and bring it back to its roots. They are investing millions into it.” She says Kona Kai restaurant “relaunches” July 4 after a remodel. “Phase two of the remodel starts in September,” she says.

Aguirre notes that Kona Kai will have the same asset shared with Humphrey’s: a marina view. “We also have one of the only private beaches in San Diego.” She says a concert series on that beach for 300 to 400 guests at a time is being booked. “It will not have the level of headliners like Humphrey’s [Concerts by the Bay]. But we will bring in artists like Coco Montoya.”

Aguirre says she would like to hear from local blues, jazz, acoustic, rock, or flamenco artists who may want to play at the Kona Kai: [email protected].

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Shawna Bubwona...you lookin' so nice! :D Congrats to you

I have been going to the Kona Kai since I was a little kid. Think this is a great idea to have a music venue here.

The Kona Kai was down at the heels thirty years ago. It is hard to imagine the sort of effort and expense required to bring it back to its former glory. The place seemed like a fenced-off compound in the early 80's. Since there's no vacant real estate in the area, I suppose that even the Kona Kai can be recycled into something worthwhile.

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