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A new era dawns for Flicks in Hillcrest

SAN DIEGO – For nearly 30 years, Flicks has been a popular video bar and drinking establishment in the heart of Hillcrest, but most importantly it’s been a meeting place. And that is exactly what new owner Jeff Jackson wants it to remain -- a place where friends meet, connect and celebrate.

Jackson and his partner Paul, who moved to San Diego about 11 years ago, met their first friends in town at Flicks.

"Before moving to San Diego, we used to visit all the time and would often end up at Flicks," Jackson told San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. And it was at Flicks where the couple met Nigel Mayer, a well-known community member who had owned the bar for about 20 years.

"When Nigel said he was selling the place, I knew it was the right opportunity and we bought it," Jackson said.

San Diego is home

Originally from New York, Jackson attended in college in Buffalo, N.Y. and like many others, said it was the weather that brought him to San Diego.

“We once were stuck in the car on the freeway during a snowstorm for 14 hours,” Jackson recalled. “After that experience, we decided we never wanted to have to live through those type of extreme weather conditions again.”

As regular visitors to San Diego, moving here seemed like the perfect fit for the couple of 21 years, who now reside in Bankers Hill.

Behind the bar

Although Jackson has a couple of college degrees and technical certifications, he has always found himself most comfortable behind the bar.

Working in a restaurant while in high school, he said his bosses gave him a very special present for his 18th birthday: They let him tend bar. Bartending was something Jackson always wanted to do, and once he was of age to do it, he got the opportunity.

He worked his way through college tending bar, and when the couple made the move to San Diego, Jackson found a temporary job as a bartender at JT’s Pub & Grill in the Grantville area while looking for work.

This “temporary” job turned out to be fairly permanent as Jackson ended up buying the bar. Located on Mission Gorge Road, JT’s is very popular with students at nearby San Diego State University, as well as residents of Grantville, Allied Gardens, Mission Valley and surrounding communities. Jackson calls JT’s a “neighborhood bar” that is welcoming to everyone. He appreciates the outstanding staff he has there, who have made it easy for him to take some time away to work on Flicks.

Maintaining the special atmosphere

Bars hold a very special place in the hearts of many in the LGBT community, and oftentimes, when news of a change of ownership comes, there can be a bit of a panic that ensues. Mayer, the former owner of Flicks, had a long history in town, and had become a beloved figure by many for his decades of charity work and community involvement.

Jackson recognizes that many in the community are unfamiliar with him and his partner, but made it clear that Flicks will maintain the same vibe, atmosphere and friendly gay bar environment that it has become known for since first opening in 1983.

“Flicks has many longtime customers who have seen Hillcrest change and grow,” Jackson said. “It’s fascinating to hear these customers tell their stories to the younger patrons -- it gives them a sense of community and Flicks is the perfect place for that. This kind of place is needed.”

While Jackson doesn’t have plans to make any sweeping changes to the popular bar, some very noticeable touch-ups have already occurred.

“Flicks’ last update was completed around 1999, so the place needs some cleaning up,” Jackson said.

Customers and passersby will notice that the outside facade has been painted, and given an updated look with wood paneling and new lighting. Inside, the walls are being painted and new lighting being installed.

“Right away, we won’t be making any drastic changes as we don’t want to alienate anyone,” Jackson said. “I want to make sure Flicks remains what it is, and continue to reflect this neighborhood.”

Bar events

While there are no immediate plans to change some of the bar popular weekly events, such as the mid-week gathering known by many as “Welfare Wednesday,” and the Saturday night wet underwear contest, Jackson is tweeking a few of the events to try some new things.

One new feature is the Thursday night event called “Club Flicker.” While Flicks has always been known as a video bar, Jackson thought they’d give this special dance party a try, which includes a live DJ and go-go dancers.

“With Rich’s hosting ladies night on Thursdays, many people are looking for that sort of vibe elsewhere, so we thought we’d give this a try,” Jackson said.

Hosted by popular local DJ John Joseph, Club Flicker has already started to see a following and the bar hopes it becomes a popular option on the weekly nightlife circuit.

Flicks will continue to be invested in the community

Jackson said that he very much wants to be a part of the community and says that will Flicks will continue its tradition of giving back to the various charities and groups that provide support and services to those in need. Once he gets settled, Jackson hopes to seek out some of the various community groups and business associations, and has plans for Flicks to be involved in all of the major neighborhood events, including San Diego Pride and others.

Jackson is also very interested in meeting the community, and invites everyone to come in and introduce themselves. All people have to do is ask one of the staff to find him, and if he’s on site, he’ll come out and say hello.

Also worth noting is that Jackson did not want this interview to focus on him, as he really wants to shine the light on his staff. SDGLN felt it was important to introduce this new business owner to the community, but Jackson wanted readers to know how wonderful his staff is.

Many of Flicks longtime staff have stayed on through the transition, to be joined by a few new employees, who will make up the team that keep this longtime gay-owned and operated bar the special place that it has always been.

Flicks is located at 1017 University Ave. in the heart of Hillcrest. More information is HERE.