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1202 Nightclub/The Range owners detail fight to save former Eden space

SAN DIEGO -- Community supporter, philanthropist and business owner Robert Lane had no idea what the next nine months would have in store for his company when it signed the lease on the 1202 University Ave. property in Hillcrest at the end of August 2012. To date, his company has invested nearly $1 million in the site despite his company and the community having been at risk of losing it all every step of the way.

Lane unwaveringly fought for the space for the Hillcrest community, and now he is asking for the community’s support to ensure the venue’s survival and success.

A rough beginning

When Lane’s company purchased the existing liquor license and entertainment permit, it had 30 days to file the necessary paperwork for the transfer and reopen for business using the previous license as a temporary usage permit. Due to delays in signing papers, the seller left Lane’s company with 72 hours to reopen the business, but had virtually dismantled the property, leaving the space in disrepair and unable to pass health and fire inspections.

Determined not to lose the liquor license, Lane and his crew rolled up their sleeves and got to work fixing everything from lighting and sound equipment to replacing emergency exit signs and fire extinguishers. In nothing short of a miracle, the venue passed inspection and was ready to open at the end of the 72-hour timeline, albeit in makeshift fashion.


Unfortunately for Lane, that was only the beginning.

Over the course of the next nine months, in an effort to follow the proper guidelines and go through the correct channels, Lane uncovered error after error in inherited paperwork with both the City of San Diego and Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), tossing him into a bureaucratic nightmare filled with constant roadblocks and the threat of the property losing its alcohol and entertainment permit. Not only would this have forced Lane’s company to shut their doors, but ABC informed him that any subsequent owner would never be granted permission to use the property as a nightclub or entertainment venue in the future.

After three temporary liquor licenses (when normally only one is usually granted), almost daily physical or virtual contact with the ABC field agent, and a lot of hope and perseverance, 1202 and The Range Kitchen & Cocktails has finally been granted its permanent liquor license and entertainment permit, forever saving the property as an entertainment space for the Hillcrest community.

Doing it for the community

For Lane, it wasn’t just about the money his company invested or the loss of his vision, it was about the value of the property to the community.

“I love this space, I wanted it to work out," Lane said. "The employees’ jobs were at stake, and it would have been devastating for the community of Hillcrest to lose this venue.”

Circumstances forced some of the change to the property, but now that he can move confidently forward, Lane feels like he can finally regain and work toward his vision.

A veteran to the restaurant, nightclub and entertainment business, Lane has successfully navigated the downtown San Diego scene, having established and operated many restaurant and entertainment venues in the Gaslamp Quarter. Desiring to diversify into Hillcrest’s growing entertainment scene, the opportunity finally arrived when the 1263 University Ave. space opened, becoming the Range Kitchen & Cocktail’s first home. Due to use and compliance issues that were unforeseen, Lane moved the restaurant across the street and subsequently opened 1202 after Eden closed, creating the ideal nightlife and dining experience colloquially known as 1202/Range.

But it’s not all about business for Lane.

He has championed the growth and diversification Hillcrest has undergone over the years. His objective has always been to improve and give back to both the Hillcrest and LGBT community. He serves as a board member and active participant on the Hillcrest Business Association, an organization engaging in the economic development, beautification and safety of the Hillcrest community.

“I care not just about my business and success, but about the entire community,” Lane said.

Likewise, 1202/Range has opened its doors to host and support events and funding for charity organizations supporting LGBT homeless youth and people with HIV/AIDS, including MARYAH, The Center and Dining Out For Life, as well as other LBGT support organizations like the San Diego American Flag Football League.

A unique space for Hillcrest

1202/Range is gay owned and operated and strives to exceed the expectations of the ever-changing community.

“Hillcrest is becoming a more diverse community – gay, straight, vibrant,” Lane said. And his vision for the 1202/Range property, he said, is to develop a business that caters to that ever-changing diversity.

This prime location in the heart of Hillcrest boasts a nightclub, restaurant, outdoor patio seating and a spacious, sunny courtyard complete with a full bar –the perfect environment for sunny San Diego. But it also offers something for everyone: a vibrant, open dance floor at 1202 complete with intimate lounge seating on the perimeter; a spacious outdoor courtyard for fresh air and a full bar for drinks; and a restaurant offering late-night, fresh farm-to-table food service.

The space is unique, organically changing to meet the demands of the clientele. The staff is team-oriented and friendly, he said, and the majority of them have worked in the community prior to coming to 1202/Range. Internally, everyone invested – staff and financial backers alike – not only want 1202/Range to succeed, but truly want to deliver a unique, organic, multi-faceted venue to the community.

What's next

What’s next for 1202/Range now that they’ve secured their liquor and entertainment license? Lane is excited for the changes and the new, unrestricted possibilities. He acknowledges the criticisms 1202/Range has faced since opening the current location last year, but he is looking toward a brighter future now that he can confidently, uninhibitedly execute his vision.

The Range Kitchen & Cocktails is releasing its new menu this week, remaining true to the promise to deliver high quality ingredients at a value-oriented price. The new menu will include many of the old favorites such as the Potato Chip Chicken, the Range Burger and the Body Builder Salad, but has been redesigned to include tasty new additions like the Granny Himebach Sticky Buns (a patron’s family recipe for mouthwatering homemade caramel pecan rolls), a delectable Range Meatloaf, hand-cut Truffle Fries, southwestern style Smoked Onion Rings, and a new staff favorite, El Gaucho – a South of the Border play on traditional vegetable soup.

All menu items, right down to the sauces, are handmade on site from raw ingredients; quality and freshness are priority.

In addition to the new menu, The Range has also hired a new Chef de Cuisine, Eric O’Connor, who has a long history at some of the top restaurants in San Diego and is a big believer in using as many local ingredients as possible and team-input for food diversification.

The Range is also launching its new Happy Hour, Monday-Saturday, 3-7 pm, with half-priced food and fabulous drink specials. The Brunch menu, available Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm, has been upgraded to include new menu items and fresh fruit bellinis.

Other improvements coming soon to The Range include a wrap around bar on the interior of the restaurant. The finer, softer touches, such as fresh potted herbs on each table and complimentary refreshing fruit-infused water, have already been implemented to enhance the farm-to-table concept and welcoming California-country motif.

Much is in the works for 1202.

With relatively few changes since Eden for fear of losing the space in the liquor license dilemma, Lane has ample improvements in store for the spacious venue in order to create a community winner. A cabana area that looks out onto the dance floor will be configured to accommodate up to 60 people. And while there has already been some work done, such as the demolitions to make the main room more open and the additions of the LED screens over the bar, the finer touches will be implemented in order for Lane’s vision to come to fruition: the complete Hillcrest nightlife package.

“We’re not trying to be Rich’s, Flicks, Urban Mo’s or any other iconic Hillcrest venue; we want to have our own place in the community, for the community,” Lane said.

Notable DJs from the local scene, Los Angeles and the Bay Area such as Dawna Montell, DJ Von Kiss, DJ Schoeny and Tristan Jaxx are scheduled regularly to mix Top 40 tunes with dance flair. The Pump’d monthly event is sure to get the crowd’s hearts beating, featuring a jocks and athletics theme with sexy exercising go-go dancers. The third Saturday of every month, 1202 partners with SDPix, and every six weeks the club features a burlesque show on Saturdays from 7-9 pm. Complete with a regular Thursday night drag show and available for private party rental, this 16,000 sq. foot venue is more than just a nightclub and restaurant – it’s a full package entertainment venue.

Throughout this battle Lane has remained positive. He understands that many people’s expectations have not been met, but he is hoping that once the public understands what was going on behind the scenes they will support the venue’s transformation. 1202/Range has the potential to offer the very uniqueness and diversity the Hillcrest community deserves.

After the long battle, community backing moving forward is fundamental to success, and 1202/Range humbly seeks the community’s support moving forward.

Visit 1202 Nightclub online HERE.

Visit The Range Kitchen & Cocktails online HERE.