Whether it’s a regular night out, birthday celebration, or bachelorette party, the Gaslamp district’s premier nightclub aims to make the experience unique and unforgettable. At Side Bar Nightclub and Lounge, you’ll find dance-inducing music from live DJs, seasonal handmade cocktails, and a glowing, Instagrammable atmosphere. Guests can expect to indulge in a night of their choosing: high-energy dancing and drinking on the “club” side of Side Bar — or a relaxing experience met with socializing and sipping on the “lounge” side.
Known for their delicious cocktails, Side Bar recently launched a new menu of seasonal drinks, inspired by the staff’s favorite summer travel destinations. For $15, try fan-favorite Coco Beach Club, made with lime, blood orange, coconut, and tequila, or St. Tropez Spa Day, made with botanical vodka, St. Germaine, cucumber basil syrup, chamomile bitters, and lemon.
Side Bar is on the hot list in San Diego, following a lengthy journey of development and big changes over the years. We sat down with owner Frankie Sciuto to discuss the club, the cocktails, and everything in between.
How did you get into the nightlife industry?
I was born into it! My great grandfather owned several bars and restaurants throughout his life, and my family has owned The Lamplighter in Mission Hills for over 28 years now, making me a fourth-generation owner with Side Bar. Growing up in this industry naturally had a large impact on my life, especially as I looked up to my father and grandfather as examples of how to be successful. The Lamplighter was my start once I turned 21, and I worked every single role from bar back to bartender. Over the years I worked my way up in the industry with various management roles and Side Bar eventually asked me to guest bartend for them. I fell in love with the space, and it is safe to say that the rest is history. Following my guest bartending experience, I became assistant general manager, general manager and eventually bought the business – transforming it into what we see today.
Tell me about Side Bar’s evolution since its relaunch in 2018. How has the atmosphere changed?
Side Bar has completely changed since its relaunch in 2018. It used to have a very dark, sultry and more traditional “club” atmosphere, with sexy décor and red colorways. When we relaunched Side Bar in 2018, we wanted something completely different. Side Bar 3.0, as we call it, was designed with a more feminine, beautiful and “Instagramable'' aesthetic in mind. We added an intimate lounge space and crafted higher-level cocktails, elevating Side Bar’s experience. Now, guests can choose how they’d like to experience the venue, whether for an intimate date night with eccentric craft cocktails on the lounge side or a night of dancing, champagne and confetti on the club side.
What makes Side Bar different from the other nightlife spots in the Gaslamp district?
Our number one differentiator is our staff. We take pride in how our team makes people feel when they walk through the door – like family. Other nightlife spots in the Gaslamp tend to have large, overwhelming presences, making our intimate customer service unique. Guests get to know our bartenders, bottle service servers and bouncers, which creates a safer, more friendly and enjoyable experience for everyone. We also offer versatility as both a nightclub and a lounge, creating an intimate atmosphere that still has “big room energy.”
How has Side Bar influenced the success of the Gaslamp district?
As one of the longest-standing nightclubs in San Diego’s Gaslamp district, we’ve been a staple of the area for the past 19 years. We've retained a respectable clientele, which in turn adds to the classiness of the Gaslamp. We’re able to execute this in the details, such as requiring a formal dress code, which elevates the Gaslamp’s standards overall. As the Gaslamp has evolved over the years, we’ve transformed with it, and in turn transformed with the overall evolution of nightlife in Southern California.
How has Side Bar stayed on top?
We’ve stayed on top by constantly evolving; we’ve reinvented Side Bar three times because we’ve always pursued becoming the best version of ourselves. We push the envelope with creativity and innovation, always seeking ways to level up our cocktails, events and our guests’ experiences. We never try to fit the mold. We’ve also actively pursued a big push towards marketing, which is a huge differentiator compared to other clubs. Throughout the constant change, however, our staff has always been consistent, which keeps Side Bar at the top. When you come here, you can expect to see familiar faces who have been here for years, which speaks volumes about the culture we uphold.
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What do you see next for the Gaslamp district?
I expect to see the Gaslamp become an area that is bustling both day and night! We believe we’ll see continued growth in its popularity as a zone for food and dining, entertainment and shopping. The district’s future is very promising, especially as the Bayfront area continues to evolve, driving more traffic to the Gaslamp as well.
What is the most popular cocktail ordered at the club?
The Coco Beach Club is Side Bar’s most popular cocktail. It’s a pink margarita with a black salt rim — we like to add jalapeños to spice it up too. It’s also a Forbes favorite!
What are some of your favorite spots for dinner in San Diego?
My favorite local dinner spots are Barbusa, Cowboy Star, Hane Sushi, the Lumi Rooftop, and Huntress. Hane Sushi is hands down the best sushi restaurant in San Diego, offering a very traditional, old-school atmosphere.
What’s your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind in San Diego?
I don’t unwind often, but when I do – my favorite way to relax is on a boat somewhere with friends. Also, as a born-and-raised San Diegan, I have tons of family here. Getting together for a family dinner is another one of my favorite ways to unwind as well!
Photography by: Side Bar