Bully’s owners reflect on 40 years

Bully’s restaurant, a La Jolla institution for more than 40 years, has been forced to close its doors because of the economic times.

Current owners Beverly Yuhause-Becker and husband Charles T. Becker said the decision to finally shut the neighborhood restaurant-bar down was like experiencing a death in the family.

“It was like having cancer and deciding whether or not you’re going to take chemotherapy,” Beverly said.

The Early Days

The Beckers, who had long been associated with the restaurant at 5755 La Jolla Blvd. in Bird Rock, acquired it from the late George Bullington’s estate in the 1990s. Bully’s started out as a coffeehouse called the Pourhouse.

The restaurant in its early days was a popular local watering hole, recalled longtime patron and Realtor Ed Rolwing. “George (Bullington) was very generous with girls, who didn’t have to pay, so the place was always full of women,” he said.

“Navy pilots from Miramar and Chargers players used to come, and some nights you’d open the door and people would fall out. People serving dinner couldn’t get through the crowd. But the Navy clamped down on drinking and Chargers weren’t being given drinks anymore.”

Times like those will never come around again. “It’s a damn shame,” said Rolwing. “It’s an institution here.”

Rolwing said Bully’s was distinguished, not only by who went there, but by people, like Bullington, who owned or were associated with it. “He (Bullington) used to have nine deep at the bar, and there wouldn’t be a single dirty glass. He’d be talking to everyone at the same time and he just never stopped moving.”

Sharon Delmonico, Bully’s office manager, said construction on Bird Rock’s traffic-calming roundabouts was the final nail in the coffin for business at Bully’s, which had been in decline for a number of years. “Sales have just been going down and down,” she said. “They (owners) just can’t do it anymore. It’s the economic times. It (closing) wasn’t an easy thing to do. It wasn’t a choice.”

Becker added California’s minimum wage law has raised salaries for employees so much recently that it’s making it harder and harder to stay in business.

“We just backed off of it,” Becker said. “We would love someone to buy it. I would love to sell it to them.”

Looking Ahead

Becker said there is a chance Bully’s could be resurrected in the future. But it will have to be someone else who raises it from the dead.

“We’re going to sell the stuff in place to the guy who buys it,” he said, while standing in the middle of the still-furnished, dimly lit interior of the storied restaurant wallpapered with patrons’ portraits and photos from Del Mar Racetrack.

Becker added the now-closed restaurant has a number of things going for it, not the least of which are its location and enduring reputation. It also has one other very tangible plus. “It has a transferable liquor and cabaret license which is just unheard of anymore,” he said.

Bully’s Del Mar at 1404 Camino Del Mar remains open and the Beckers hope some of their former La Jolla patrons will travel the extra distance and visit them up there.