Consortium Holdings Alums Take Over Historic Gilly's Cocktails In San Diego's University Heights

October 26, 2023

A pair of alums from San Diego's Consortium Holdings hospitality group (Polite Provisions, Raised By Wolves) are taking over ownership of historic local dive bar, Gilly's Cocktails in University Heights, and all employees have already been terminated.

Renowned mixologist Erick Castro has worked at some of the top cocktail bars in California. He solidified his cocktail empire at highly revered Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse in San Francisco by searching for obscure recipes, methods and ingredients that originated prior to Prohibition. But his humble beginnings first began in San Diego tending bar while attending classes at San Diego State University before leaving for Northern California in 2005.

Castro joined San Diego's Consortium Holdings in September 2012 to assist the growing hospitality firm in launching Polite Provisions and has since assisted the company in fine tuning its cocktail programs at their nearly two dozen San Diego properties. Over the course of his illustrious career, Castro's unique spirits programs have earned him mention in some of the most coveted media outlets, including Esquire, Food & Wine, and Forbes. Earlier this year, Castro sold his ownership shares of Polite Provisions but still holds equity in Westfield UTC speakeasy Raised By Wolves.

Erick Castro has now joined forces with Jacob Mentel, another Consortium Holdings alumnus who contributed to Youngblood in San Diego's East Village and previously managed Polite Provisions. Together, they will assume ownership of Gilly's Cocktails, a historic establishment that initially opened as Gil's in 1968, rebranding as Gilly's in 2006. The current owner, Martin Gill, is retiring and sought new proprietors who would maintain the bar's neighborhood-focused ethos. Gilly's is located nearly directly across the street from The Lafayette Hotel, which was recently reopened by Consortium Holdings after a $31 million renovation.

"After working [with Jacob Mentel] on this for several months now, it feels good to finally be able share this incredible good news with all of you," wrote Erick Castro. "Although bringing a project like this to life has been a dream of mine for over a decade, I know that the hard work of bringing that dream to life has only just begun. Also, we understand that taking over a beloved institution such as this one carries great responsibility and it is not one that we take lightly, which is why we are committed to not only honoring that legacy but also building upon that legacy and continuing it into the future."

While new owners have said they don't anticipate making significant changes to the historic establishment, there have been reports that all staff members have already been given short notice of their impending termination leading up to the transition (clarified below). When Castro and Mentel officially assume control of the property in mid-November, they plan to briefly close the venue for improvements, including a name change to Gilly’s House of Cocktails, enhancing the cocktail and spirits offerings, upgrading ice quality, hiring and training new staff, and making modest interior updates and cleaning. They may also introduce a pinball machine or two.
Gilly's Cocktails is located at 2306 El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego's University Heights. For more information, follow Gilly's on Instagram.