After More Than A Decade In San Diego's University Heights, Small Bar Is Permanently Closed

November 12, 2020

Small Bar has been a destination for craft beer and elevated pub food in University Heights for more than a decade, but the neighborhood tavern has announced it is permanently closed in light of news of San Diego County's impending move into the state's most restrictive purple tier of COVID-19 prohibitions. 

Founded in September 2009 by Hamilton's Tavern founder Scot Blair, then-wife Karen Barnett, and Fathom Bistro owner Dennis Borlek, Small Bar has been a popular neighborhood staple in San Diego's University Heights known for its extensive craft beer program, delicious tavern fare, and neighborhood-focused vibe. In 2019, Small Bar worked with Trust Restaurant Group on a consulting basis to revamp the space and transition the one-time dive bar into a more upscale cocktail lounge and eatery, but Barnett abruptly fired the local hospitality group in disappointment a short eight months later. Owner Karen Barnett today announced that due to the latest rollback of coronavirus restrictions on indoor operations, coupled with other business issues, she has decided to permanently close Small Bar effective immediately. 

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that I announce the closure of Small Bar," announced owner Karen Barnett via a post to Small Bar's social media channels. "We have navigated and survived some challenging times but 2020 proved to be more than our little bar could handle. I'm not emotionally prepared to wax nostalgic on the last 11 years of memories, but I wanted you all to hear directly from me how grateful I am for your support. I couldn't even begin to start a list of people who have helped make this business such a special place. It was like a 2nd home for many and my heart breaks that we won't have that here again. Before y'all lovingly bombard me with ideas to make it work, I need to express how tired I am of fighting this fight. Not tired from annoyance but physically and emotionally exhausted from years of setbacks, and this year I fought hard but the numbers just don't add up. We were already on life support when a full time employee was exposed to Covid and closing to get everyone tested, losing a week of sales made our fate unavoidable. I have debt to deal with from Covid, from last year's failed remodel, and my first priority is and always has been to take care of my staff and community. With that said, tomorrow I will be donating our entire kitchen inventory to charitable kitchens who provide meals for the homeless. And this weekend I will be posting fundraising efforts for my staff which will include Small Bar farewell merchandise and Thanksgiving dinner pre-orders, our last supper, if you will. For those of you who generously purchased gift cards this year to support us but have not redeemed them, I will be putting together a list of alcohol, art and other items that you can use your gift cards to buy. More details on all of that coming as soon as possible. I can't thank you all enough and I'm truly out of words - which, if you know me, is pretty remarkable. Take care. Thank you."

Karen is currently entertaining offers for the purchase of the Small Bar business. Those interested can email her at karen@smallbarsd.com or leave a voicemail at 619.795.7998. Karen will also be launching a podcast about overcoming trauma and abuse in early 2021.