Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Universal Nightclub May Be Sold

Alleged to Have Up to $1 Million in Bills


Copyright © 2008 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved

Partygoers cheered, but nearby residents complained, when the upscale Universal nightclub opened in April of 2007 at University and Vermont.

But, the 15,000 sq.ft. complex, which includes the nightclub and the adjacent Dish restaurant and Ciros pizza joint and reportedly cost about $5.5 million to develop, isn’t paying its bills and may be sold.

Universal, owned by EnDev Enterprises with James Brennan as majority partner, has at least $446,522 in lawsuits and mechanic’s liens against it.

While it isn’t officially on the market, Brennan told the San Diego Union-Tribune he “is consid-ering offers for the nightclub and adjacent Dish and Ciro’s Pizza establishments,” according to the Union Tribune.

“We haven’t had many bites. With the liens and lawsuits out there, people see blood in the water,” he added, claiming he has a plan to resolve the high debt on Universal, but refusing to explain it.

The high-end nightclub cost about $5.5 million to develop, and received high praise from Gays like Gay & Lesbian Times columnist Nicole Murray-Ramirez.

Its staff says it can handle nearly 1,000 “clients,” and that means hundreds of cars on the week-ends.

Universal has no dedicated parking whatsoever.

A plan to park some cars — for an extra fee — in the parking garage under the Ralph’s super-market fell through. Universal customers parking in Ralph’s large lot run the high risk of getting towed, with the cost of recovery at about $300.

Instead, they have been parking in the nearby residential neighborhoods, where parking was already a serious problem.

Many of those residents loudly protested the parking problems caused by Universal at the Sep-tember meeting of the Uptown Planners.

“I think (Universal) is a problem for anybody trying to park a car in that part of Hillcrest. That’s my number one feeling about them,” said longtime community activist Jay Murley.

“How that establishment was contracted and permitted without parking, I don’t understand,” Murley added.

On weekends, the crowd squeezing into Universal is so enormous that the San Diego Police De-partment has sent investigators into the nightclub to force it to conform to fire capacity regulations.

Universal isn’t the only business operated by EnDev that has problems.

The weakened economy and rising unemployment is hitting the nightclub scene, and fewer people are willing to spend a hundred dollars in indulge in pricey bar tabs and meals.

In 2003, EnDev opened the trendy nightspot Side Bar in the Gaslamp Quarter which reportedly started the bottle-service trend in San Diego.

In 2005, the developer opened the high-end Stingaree, a $7 million, three-level nightclub and restaurant, also in the Gaslamp Quarter. Neither the Stingaree nor the Top of the Cove in La Jolla (bought in 2006 by EnDev for $6.5 million, now closed for renovations) are on the market, however.

Residents in nearby Uptown neighborhoods are furious that Universal opened with no parking facilities whatsoever, and with little control over its sometimes drunk customers leaving the high-end nightclub. Many will cheer loudly if it closes because of unpaid bills.

For comment, contact Leo E. Laurence at or call (619) 757-4909

Photo caption: The trendy Universal nightclub at University and Vermont is shown at night. Photo by Leo E. Laurence