The Royal Dive closes its doors

The Royal Dive closes its doors
Ken Leighton and Nathan Johnston, former co-owners of the Royal Dive, will open a new bar and music venue on North El Camino Real. They are still toying with a name for the bar that is set to open in August. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — After seven years of live music, comedy nights and flowing craft beer the Royal Dive closed its doors at San Luis Rey Road with a farewell concert May 21.

Fans of the craft beer and music venue will have to wait three months for the establishment to reopen at its new location on North El Camino Real.

Ken Leighton said he and fellow co-owner Nathan Johnston are toying with a new name that will represent the legacy of the Royal Dive and historic significance of the new venue located by Mission San Luis Rey.

The Royal Dive was known for its original rock ‘n’ roll music.

Musicians ranged from national touring bands to up and coming local talent.

It also grew to be a military watering hole, and regularly featured military rock bands.

In addition to rock, music included country, electronic, and hip-hop.

“All original — that’s our deal,” Leighton said. “We don’t do cover bands or deejays who play covers.”

A rent increase, neighboring bars and size limitation were some of the reasons for the move.

“Our lease here has expired and we are not prepared to pay the big rent that does not seem reasonable to our industrial park reality,” Leighton said.

Leighton said nearby bars were good neighbors, but brought the challenges of customer competition and dealing with patrons who were coming in already drunk from neighboring bars.

He added there were no incidents, just extra demands on staff.

The bar at the new location stands alone and is in a steady customer traffic flow area by the mission. It was formerly the River Bottom bar.

The building holds historic charm.

“We want to tap into all that local vibe there,” Leighton said.

At 2,000 square feet, it is also double the size of the previous location. Plans are to make some cosmetic renovations, and add soundproofing, a state-of-the-art sound system and performance stage.

There is also a three-month wait for the ABC license.

The new craft beer, wine and music “dive” will continue the traditions of live bands, comedy showcases, and open mic nights.

Leighton said being a venue for national touring bands to play and local bands to take to the stage remains the goal.

Bartender and metal guitarist Willie Smith will remain part of the team, and continue to serve customers and perform guitar solos.

Food will not be sold, but chilidogs and nachos will be given away to customers.

The “dive” is expected to open to patrons, age 21 and older, in August.

 

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