Owners Of San Diego's Historic Waterfront Bar Take Ownership Of Hearth House In La Mesa

May 18, 2024

The owners of San Diego's historic The Waterfront Bar & Grill and Aero Club have purchased Hearth House dive bar in La Mesa. 

Cousins Chad Cline and Jason "Rocky" Nichols, descendants of the great-grandfather who in the 1960s acquired Little Italy's historic Waterfront Bar (boasting the first liquor license issued in San Diego after Prohibition), are embarking on a new venture by taking over Hearth House in La Mesa. Alongside their established venues including The Waterfront in Little Italy, Eastbound in Lakeside, The Hills in La Mesa, Harbor Town and Club Marina in Point Loma, Werewolf in the Gaslamp, Aero Club & Dyno Bar in Middletown, and Sycamore Den in Normal Height, Hearth House adds to the team's devotion to maintaining dive bar culture in San Diego. 

"Peter Luster contacted me about the place a while back and shared his interest in passing the spot along," explained Chad Cline. "It’s an old 48 [liquor license] which my cousin and I generally want. Dive bars have a special place in our heart, as I may have said before. They’re the type of place where everyone is treated the same, you end up talking to strangers and judgment isn’t allowed inside. At least that’s how we view them." 

The Hearth House has been around under different names since 1985. Originally opened by Joseph Leinenbach, the dive bar has changed ownership a couple times and was most recently operated by Amy & Peter Luster. 

"It used to be called the Classic Cat and Peter shared a few stories of good times that have been had over there throughout the years," continued Cline. "One in particular involving a male stripper who put on a puppet show. I’ll spare you the details, but I was told he was 'a head of his time.' Sounded like 'choose your own adventure' type energy was in the walls, so obviously my cousin and I would like to bring our talents to the place and see if we can make it even better. Don’t want anyone to be scared that their memories are going to be erased, because that’s not what we want. We want to make sure Hearth House makes fun memories for people around La Mesa for a long time. " 

The Waterfront team will clean up the Hearth House, upgrade the space a bit, but intend to keep the name and vibe. The company may consider adding a food truck component. Expect the bar to reopen at some point this summer. 

The Hearth House is located at 5505 Jackson Drive in San Diego's La Mesa. For more information, follow Hearth House on Facebook