Historic Captain Keno's Restaurant & Bar Sold In San Diego's North County

November 22, 2021

An Encinitas developer has purchased the more than 50 year-old Captain Keno’s Restaurant in San Diego's North County with plans to eventually redevelop the historic bar. 

Captain Keno’s is considered to be Encinitas’s oldest surviving restaurant, still owned by the concept's founder. The building was originally built as the Shamrock Café, a local drive-in eatery that was a popular rest stop for commuters driving between the San Diego and Los Angeles. The space eventually became the El Rancho Steak House until 1966, then after sitting empty for several years, Gerry Sova purchased the property for $110,000 and opened Captain Keno’s in 1970. Sova, who is now 81 years old, used winnings from playing Keno in Las Vegas to obtain the Encinitas building, which explains his choice of name for the establishment. 

Local development company RAF Pacifica Group has purchased Captain Keno’s Restaurant and neighboring Portofino Beach Inn for an unknown sum. Currently dubbed the Moonlight Mixed-Use Project, RAF will partner with architecture company SmithGroup to redevelop the adjacent properties into a plaza with "micro" residential units, office spaces, and a restaurant and bar.

"The new project includes a plaza being built in the neighboring property," explained Captain Keno's founder Gerry Sova. "The redevelopment would really affect my business, including taking over a lot of my parking area, so I decided to sell. We will remain in operation for at least three more years." 

Captain Keno's founder Gerry Sova has ensured the restaurant will stay put for at least the next few years. Captain Keno's will continue to offer value-oriented dining and drinking, including hosting its annual Thanksgiving Day all-you-can eat buffet for $3 per person this Thursday, November 25. 

RAF owner Adam Robinson has stated that the new restaurant & bar he plans to open in the Captain Keno's space as early as 2025 will pay homage to the historic local haunt. Robinson has purchased the Captain Keno's liquor license, as well as rights to the name.

Cap'n Keno's is open Monday through Sunday from 6am to midnight at 158 N. Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. For more information, visit captainkenos.com.