One on one: Mike Viscuso talks about calling off plans in La Jolla

Panera will open soon in the building where Mike Viscuso had planned his venture. Photo: Dave Schwab
Panera will open soon in the building where Mike Viscuso had planned his venture. Photo: Dave Schwab

By Dave Schwab

In the end, it was the continuing recessionary economy that convinced nightclub entrepreneur Mike Viscuso to abandon a gamble he’d undertaken in trying to reinvent Jack’s at 7863 Girard Ave.

“It’s so many factors, delays created for me that made me realize, maybe I shouldn’t drop $3 million-plus to remodel and another $1 million to keep the doors open and probably run into the negative for a year or two,” said Viscuso in a recent telephone interview. “It’s real difficult to carry a business in today’s economy without the cash flow.”

Since announcing recently that he’d decided not to open Mike’s — an entertainment complex that was to include seven bars, three restaurants and a nightclub — Viscuso said he’s been “getting a lot of calls from customers who wanted to see it happen.”

But, he added, the time just isn’t right now to launch such a speculative venture, though it could be again perhaps down the road.

Viscuso noted the proximity and competition from the huge youthful market in Pacific Beach, as well as the consumer mindset now focused on “deals” rather than quality, are combining to make it extremely difficult for business people trying to turn a profit in the local dining and entertainment industry.

“It hasn’t been easy in the entertainment district, not even in the one downtown,” noted the owner of four clubs there — Boudoir, Belo, Deco’s and the On Broadway Event Center. “With the slow economy, dining out and entertainment are the first (spending options) to go.”

Noting nightlife venues are being forced to wave their cover charges or discount their drinks to compete in today’s market, Viscuso said, “It would be real difficult right now in the entertainment market in La Jolla when you’re competing with $2 and $3 shots and beers and $2 tacos. People are going where the deals are, from one discount, one special, to the next.”

Given the current state of the economy, Viscuso added a nightclub can presently only guarantee being busy a couple nights a week.

Though he didn’t think a nightclub would fly at the former Jack’s site in La Jolla right now, Viscuso is convinced Panera bakery, which will be opening this summer, will be a success.

“They’ll do very well, they’ve got a great concept, and very good price points,” he said.

There’s a chance you could see Viscuso back in the La Jolla market again at some point in the future.

“My heart’s in La Jolla,” he said. “If the economy does turn around, we see substantial change in the economy — I’ll be back.”



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