University Heights' Bourbon Street and Lei Lounge Purchased by Local Restaurateur John Pani

January 4, 2015

Bourbon Street San Diego and neighboring restaurant Lei Lounge in University Heights (4612 & 4622 Park Boulevard) have both been sold by longtime owners, brothers Michael and Bill Weiss. The leases to both locations were purchased by John Pani, founder of hospitality investment and management firm, ELE Collective, who also owns Waypoint Public in North Park and Hotel Vyvant in Little Italy.

A San Diego native, John Pani has for the past 12 years established himself as a key player in a number of notable hospitality projects. Before launching ELE which stands for "Experience. Live. Enjoy." - a philosophy he aims to provide for his guests - John served as a vice president of development for JMI Realty, a private investment firm heavily involved in the revitalization of downtown San Diego's Ballpark District. His wide breadth of success includes projects such as Omni San Diego, Hotel Solamar/ Jsix Restaurant & Lounge, the Marriot Del Mar/Arterra Restaurant, and ELE's first owned and managed property, the 23-room Hotel Vyvant in San Diego's Little Italy. 

In 2014, alongside business partners Brian Jensen (of the Bottlecraft beer shops) and Executive Chef Amanda Baumgarten (a Bravo Network’s Top Chef alum), John opened doors to Waypoint Public in North Park. Over the past year, Waypoint has quickly become one of San Diego’s most notable craft beer bars, having recently been honored as one of the “Best New Beer Restaurants” in the U.S. by Draft Magazine and West Coaster’s 2014 “Best Beer Restaurant” in San Diego.

Located in the heart of University Heights, each of the prior concepts celebrated two distinctly unique environments in design and atmosphere. Lei Lounge’s 2,500 square-foot location housed an indoor bar and a large outdoor canopied dining room with a 60-foot projection screen and ivy-draped walls. The 5,000 square-foot, New Orleans-style Bourbon Street offered locals a taste of the ‘Big Easy’ with its alluring brick façade underscored with 19th century lamppost lighting. The building itself has been the home to a variety of popular neighborhood watering holes for the past 50-plus years with Bourbon Street seeing the last few decades. While work on the new property is underway, John Pani, who admits the biggest driver in purchasing the lease was Bourbon Street’s landmark venue, aims to celebrate the authenticity of the neighborhood space in keeping certain historical aspects of design intact.

“With the new location, we look forward to introducing an entirely new concept to San Diego as a whole, but we’re most excited to be given the opportunity to breath new life into a well-loved neighborhood gem,” says John Pani. “University Heights is such a distinctive destination within the Uptown neighborhoods; we want to provide locals with a gathering place that is uniquely identifiable to their community.”

While specifics regarding naming, new concept details and key personnel of the two separate properties have yet to be announced, John Pani anticipates an opening date in early summer of 2015.