The Turf Club


While living in Encinitas, CA in the mid-nineties, we tried our hands at two very different types of business, surfboards with “Smitty’s Custom Surfboards”, and lampshades with “Twilight Lamp and Shade”. What the two small companies had in common was TK’s knowledge of working with fiberglass. While in San Diego over the weekend for a “Smiths Ranch Boys” show celebrating the Casbah’s 21st birthday, I had the pleasure of going to one of my all time favorite bars for a cocktail, The Turf Club. It was at least twelve years ago that Tim Mays, owner of the Casbah, Starlite and the Riviera Supper Club, and his partners took over this old school San Diego watering hole.  For years The Turf Club sat a little worn out, the kind of neighborhood bar that although a little seedy, you might have gone into for a Sunday afternoon buzz only because it was walking distance if you lived in Golden Hill. Once you were in, you might not have ventured back out until day had become night. The bar was so dark inside from no windows, and the drinks so cheap, that the brightness of a San Diego day would just hurt too much. Nothing had been changed, or cleaned it seemed, for 40+ years. When Tim and his partners took over, they had the right touch in knowing just what to leave alone and what needed to be updated. As the name suggests, The Turf Club has always had a horse racing theme. They hired TK to create new lighting that would look as though it had always been there.

He came up with a vintage inspired design for hanging fixtures above each table and sconces behind the bar. TK laid up flat panels using fiberglass veil and polyester resin and added black string and gold glitter inside each panel for a little kitsch. For the center section of each light fixture, we had the horseshoe and riding crop silk-screened on the fiberglass to tie the light fixtures into the original horse racing theme. We cut the panels to size, laced them on the frames and hard wired the fixtures in place. The Turf Club has become one of San Diegos most popular gathering spots for great cocktails (see Matt at the bar), grilling your own food on the communal indoor grill and one of the best jukeboxes around. Even though Tim and his partners have moved on, they had the vision and the talent to bring The Turf Club back to it’s original glory  and we are grateful to have participated. You still might go in on a Sunday afternoon and not come out until after dark, but now it’s because the ambiance is so fun, and the cocktails so good that  you just don’t want to leave that world for the real world. Cheers!

1 Comment

  • I LOVE THIS PLACE!!! i’ve been going here for years and just now learned that the lamps were not original to the bar!! coming from a vintage collector, i think it’s amazing how TK could be so accurate in recreating the past!!! everything is cool about the turf supper club especially bartender matt :-]