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BREAKING NEWS: Hillcrest hip spot Eden to close

SAN DIEGO – Popular Hillcrest nightclub, patio bar and restaurant Eden will be closing this Friday after months of financial difficulty, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News learned this morning.

The hip gathering spot in Hillcrest has lost its lease, SDGLN has confirmed, and a prospective new tenant has already emerged.

Eden officials said they plan to host a going-away party for the community on Friday, and will release details in the near future.

News of the closure brings back a bit of déjà vu, as the property’s previous tenant, Universal, saw a similar fate. Opening to great fanfare in 2008, Universal rejuvenated the northeast corner of University Avenue and Vermont Street, opening a 15,000-square-foot entertainment complex containing a nightclub, dance floor, patio bar, Dish restaurant and Ciro’s Pizzeria.

Universal’s parent company, EnDev Enterprises, at the time also owned hot spots in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, including Stingaree and Sidebar.

After a short period of success, interest waned and the dream of Universal was shattered when the club closed it doors for good following a big New Year’s Eve Party on Jan. 1, 2010 – just 21 months after opening.

The prime real-estate property sat vacant for the first half of 2010, when the property’s landlord, Luz Elena “Lucy” Burni, announced that she was in negotiations with a tenant to take over the space.

Community members slowly watched the new owners touch up the space, and by the fall of 2010, Eden’s restaurant and patio bar quietly opened, with the San Diego Ambassadors of the Trevor Project hosting one of the first charity events at the re-branded hot spot.

The nightclub portion of the complex opened on Jan. 11, 2011, and was celebrated with a special “1-11-11” party.

Upon opening, Eden promised to be different than what Universal was perceived to be – pretentious, overpriced and unwelcoming to the LGBT community.

Indeed, Eden’s management worked hard to shed the image of the previous tenant, and continued to evolve its menu, entertainment and event lineups to cater to the community it served.

As Eden geared up for its one-year anniversary celebration earlier this year, general manager Daniel Schulz assured customers that the club was a part of the LGBT community.

“We are absolutely a gay and lesbian bar,” Schulz told SDGLN in January. “We market to the LGBT community and go to great lengths to make sure that all of the entertainment we book has the ability to reach out to this demographic. We would never bring anyone in that was not comfortable with that.”

Eden’s restaurant also evolved during the year and nine months it has been open, including changing its executive chef 9 months after opening, and a major overhaul of the menu and feel of the space last June.

As of late, Eden had become popular for its weekly “Friday Night Lights” and “irage” Saturday parties, as well as a popular “Sunday Funday” spot, with its Sunday brunch and “Sunday Skool” party.

Eden’s owners and management, which had become active participants in the LGBT community, encouraged its employees to take part in organizations, volunteerism, and activism, and even invited speakers from various community groups to speak at staff meetings.

As a testament to the club’s commitment to the community, owner David Laurent has pledged a portion of its sales from the recent Pride weekend -- $2,750 -- toward the Hillcrest Pride Flag Project. Laurent said today that the closure will not affect this pledge and he has sent a check to the Hillcrest Business Association to honor his promise and give back to the community that supported his business.

Details about Friday's closing party will be posted soon.

Eden is located at 1202 University Ave.

Top left photo: Eden's general manager Daniel Schulz with owner David Laurent. Middle left photo: Saturday night revelers on Eden's patio. Bottom left photo: Eden's dance floor.