FIRST LOOK: Park & Rec

You don’t have to pledge a fraternity to enjoy playing games while you drink. San Diego’s urban center has long eschewed activities, whether it be shuffleboard or ping-pong. The attitude seems to be, "Leave fun and shenanigans to the tribal-tatted beach crowd, we prefer to sit in the dark and converse artily." But can’t art and playfulness coexist? At a very posh winery in Napa recently, I watched dignified, well-attired wine nerds have the time of their lives playing a game with a grotesque name: corn hole. 

Opening today, Park & Rec bucks the dour, urban-asthmatic stereotype. Owners John Pani and Andy Zlotnik (Waypoint Public, Hotel Vyvant) have taken over University Heights’ famed, three-bungalow space that was home to gay bar Bourbon Street for almost 30 years. And he’s transformed it into a commune for games, frivolity, patio Olympics and some of the city’s best craft cocktails.

One of the bungalows is the main bar, with cocktails by Revelry Cocktail Co., the new partnership between top bartenders Anthony Schmidt (Noble Experiment, Fairweather) and Trevor Easter (Noble Experiment, Bourbon & Branch). They’ll have 12 beers on tap, but assert it’s not a beer bar (Small Bar, located two doors down, already does that concept very well). The second bungalow is the late-night dance-party jam room, with one wall almost completely removed so that you can sit, sip and watch the patio antics.

It's like the set of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village," only with French 75s, Pimm's Cups and ping-pong instead of unsettling Luddites.

Over 300 people will fit into the 5,000 square-foot property. Sun will dapple. Urbanites will rediscover sunscreen. Non-fraternity people will enjoy the backyard thrill of games. DJs and live bands will perform. Acclaimed food cart Royale with Cheese—started in Austin by Jordan Brownwood, who now lives locally—will serve sandwiches, burgers and bar bites.

With Pani’s track record at Waypoint Public and the combined cocktail clout of Revelry, this should be one of the best patios in the city to grab a drink. (Coming soon: Pani has also ascertained the lease on the former Lei Lounge space next door, with a new concept to be announced.)

Now, please enjoy the first known photos in the universe of Park & Rec. 4612 Park Blvd., University Heights, 619.795.9700.

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