Inside Oceanside: Restaurants abound

It looks like the historic restaurant with the breathtaking view of the harbor and the ocean will not be torn down after all. 

When the Flying Bridge closed in November 2008, the plan was to raze the restaurant and the next door Guest House Inn to make way for a 127-room Hyatt Place Hotel with 24 condos.

The demolition never happened and it looks like the deal is off.

Restaurateur Nico Lawrence says he has signed a lease that will let him operate the Flying Bridge as a restaurant for at least 10 years. Lawrence, who used to operate a San Marcos Thai restaurant called Bangkok Garden, is now selling the old booths and tables that accommodated Flying Bridge customers. He says he has not yet settled on a name, but plans on focus on a fusion menu/fine-dining format.

The Flying Bridge was known for its lounge, karaoke and swing music. Lawrence says he may bring in light jazz or acoustic musicians.

The Guesthouse Inn has been renamed the Rodeway Inn. Both are located on the 1100 block of North Coast Highway. It is no secret that the Flying Bridge facility needs significant upgrades including plumbing and other issues. “We’re moving ahead one step at a time,” says Lawrence.

The Flying Bridge was built in the ‘60s. It has reportedly hosted Ronald Reagan when he was governor, Sean Connery, Bing Crosby and Jerry Lewis.

Attempts to contact property owner Dr. Shantu Patel were not successful.


Harbor builder Sklar

This is the 50th anniversary of the Oceanside Marina, known to locals ever since it opened as just “The Harbor.” It exists only because of the vision and perseverance of Erwin Sklar, who served on the council from 1956 until 1968. Until he joined the council, the council was known as a staid group of downtown Oceanside good old boys.

Sklar flipped the script on this sleepy beach town. He thought Oceanside had bigger-than-life potential. He was dedicated to up scaling Oceanside’s economic and tourist profile.

Sklar had made a fortune in the meat business in L.A. He was, according to legend, a millionaire when he moved to Oceanside in 1950 to buy the land at the corner of Freeman Street and First Street (now Seagaze Drive). That was where he built the 1,000-seat Crest Theater, which opened the next year.

The Crest was larger than the two smaller theaters on Hill Street and Highway101, which had been around since at least the ‘30s. In 1956, the Star Theater opened on Hill Street and Third Street/Pierview Way.

(The Crest was where my grampa took me to see “A Hard Days Night” when I was in the second grade. There was a line around the block, as I recall).

Sklar was the mayor when he orchestrated the tricky land swap with the Marines and the Secretary of the Navy and navigated all the dredging, access and funding issues.

According to a historical website about cinema, Sklar sold the Crest to the Pussycat Theater group in the late-60s.

This item, according to former Blade-Tribune publisher Tom Missett, is “complete horse—-.”

If truth be told, there was, for a short while, a Pussycat Theater in downtown Oceanside either in the late-60s or early-70s. Two longtime locals tell me the short lived Pussycat was actually in a building on Third Street/Pierview Way, in front of the Security Pacific Bank, which is now the “Star Center” public meeting place owned by St Mary’s Catholic Church.

This proves you must not believe everything you see on the Internet.

For a while after Sklar sold it, the Crest showed Hispanic movies. The Crest is now owned by Grace Church. Many longtime locals regret the city did not step in and buy the historic theater just as it had done with Sunshine Brooks.

Beach Shorts

The old SDGE building on Ditmar Street and Mission Avenue has a sign that announces it will become an Italian restaurant. Insiders say the place will become Luigi’s, a nationally franchised chain. Here’s hoping it does better than the franchised Pizzeria Venti than existed for only a few months this year on Coast Highway. The building on Ditmar and Mission was most recently used as the Oceanside GOP headquarters. In the ‘60s it was where you went to pay your SDG&E bill.

Meanwhile, employees say the Cohn restaurant group will be opening Zig Zag Pizza Oct. 10 in the space immediately east of 333 Pacific overlooking the pier, which the Cohns also own and operate. The Cohns operate about 16 eateries in the county.

The plot of a vacant seafront property on The Strand close to Wisconsin Street will soon be the site of some serious build out. It seems 17 condos will soon be under construction. In 2008 the place was approved for 24 condos, but the developers opted out of underground parking which then decreased the number of units.

I’m no engineer but it seems like an underground facility so near the water could be a recipe for disaster.



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