Team Behind Park & Rec To Bring Johnston's Bar & Restaurant To San Diego's University Heights This Fall

September 15, 2022

The team behind now-defunct Waypoint Public and Park & Rec in San Diego's University Heights has completely renovated the building last occupied by Small Bar for more than a decade and will soon open a new bar and restaurant concept called Johnston's.

John Pani opened craft beer-focused Waypoint Public in 2013 within the 5,000 square-foot North Park corner unit that long housed controversial The Linkery. Pani also owns Park & Rec in University Heights and previously operated Hotel Vyvant in Little Italy (now called Found Hotel). Pani opened a second Waypoint Public location within Del Sur Town Center in San Diego's 4S Ranch area, which operated for about a year before it shuttered in spring 2018. The North Park Waypoint Public closed in 2020, and the space is now a branch of Swami's Cafe. 

Last year, Pani bought the building that housed Small Bar for more than 11 years before the establishment shuttered in fall 2020 during the pandemic. Located only two doors down from Pani's Park & Rec concept, the 1,500 square-foot space has been redesigned to open the frontage up to the outdoors with the addition of a large, al-fresco patio on the back of the building. 

Originally planned to be called The Regular, the name has been changed to Johnston's as a nod to the history of the building. During renovation of the building's facade, an old hand-painted sign for Johnston’s Variety Store was revealed under the former Small Bar signage. It turned out that there was once a family-owned department store at the space from 1926 until the store owner's passing in 1940. 

Johnston's is anticipated to unveil as early as next month. Expect the new concept to offer a pub-style menu from consulting chef Peter Ziegler, who previously worked at Charles + Dinorah at the Pearl Hotel in Point Loma and Wolfie's Carousel in Little Italy. There will also be a full bar with craft cocktails, beer, and wine.

Johnston's is expected to open mid-October 2022 at 4628 Park Boulevard in San Diego's University Heights neighborhood. The bar & restaurant currently does not have a website or any social media presence.