Downtown becoming a happening place for live music

Posted: October 3rd, 2014 | Arts & Entertainment, Featured, Food & Drink, Music | 1 Comment

By Kai Oliver-Kurtin

Since Downtown is a prime destination for San Diego nightlife, more businesses are incorporating live music into their offerings, to attract customers and give them a more substantial experience during a night out.

Depending on preference of vibe, music lovers may strike a chord with one of the following neighborhood venues that have recently added to the music scene.

Tin Roof

Downtown’s newest live music joint, Tin Roof, took over the space formerly occupied by Rock Bottom Brewery on the corner of Fourth Avenue and G Street. With its original location in Nashville, Tennessee, Tin Roof has expanded to other popular cities across the South, and finally made its way west when the Gaslamp location opened in early June.


Kris Bradley performing at the Tin Roof (Courtesy Tin Roof)

Tin Roof supports all genres of music from country to pop and 80s to reggae, among others. A local talent booker helps scout for bands within San Diego, as well as regional and national bands, but Tin Roof has also brought popular bands from its Nashville stage out to its new San Diego location.

“There are lots of places Downtown with expensive covers and DJs playing music from laptops,” said Bob Franklin, Tin Roof’s president and partner. “Tin Roof is a place to hang out with friends, have drinks, and enjoy a night out with live music.”

When Tin Roof took over the 11,000-square-foot space, they built a stage where bands can perform and topped all three of the bars with their namesake tin roofs. Unique to the San Diego location, an upstairs mezzanine level provides an additional viewing and seating area. Outdoor patio seating is also available for those there strictly for a meal.

Tin Roof’s original Southern-inspired menu brings flavors from both Tennessee and Mexico, including their signature chicken ‘n waffle nuggets. As for the alcohol, all shots are served in disposable medicine cups to keep things easy.

“We have amazing music in a unique vibe,” said Franklin. “It’s relaxed and casual, but still busy and upbeat.”

Franklin lived in San Diego before heading to Nashville, and said Tin Roof is somewhere he would’ve enjoyed going as a resident. So far business is off to a great start, he said.

“The community is eager to support live music played by real live people in the Gaslamp,” Franklin said.

Tin Roof has early, extended happy hour drink specials Monday through Friday, as well as nightly specials to coincide with entertainment such as full-band karaoke and singer/songwriter nights, and live music nightly except Sundays during football season. To view upcoming music and events, visit

Moonshine Flats

For a good old-fashioned honky-tonk bar, boogie on over to Moonshine Flats on Seventh Avenue in East Village, adjacent to Petco Park.

Open for business Thursday through Saturday, Moonshine Flats has a large stage for its house band, The Jonathan Lee Band; a spacious dance floor; a floor-to-ceiling LED screen; and two raised platforms for dance exhibitionists. The 10,000-square-foot venue also houses the longest bar on the West Coast at 80 feet.


Moonshine Flats’ house band The Jonathan Lee Band

Moonshine Flats opened in mid-February, but recently expanded to include The Deck, an indoor/outdoor space that resembles a Southern backyard barbeque with popular tailgating games such as cornhole, flip cup, ping pong, foosball and beer pong.

While playing, guests can order peel and eat shrimp, baby back ribs and chicken wings by the bucket.

“We spend a lot of time and effort to create a high level of entertainment and production to make a fun environment,” said Ty Hauter, owner. “Now with The Deck open, there’s something for everyone.”

On Thursdays, Moonshine Flats offers drink specials, free line dancing lessons, live music with their house band playing a mix of country and rock, and deejays playing high-energy country, throwing in some pop songs and other popular dance music.

Fridays and Saturdays at Moonshine Flats have a similar format starting with happy hour, line dancing, and then live music from 9:30 p.m. to midnight, followed by a deejay and dancing until close.

Hauter said the environment attracts people with more traditional values, making for a friendlier atmosphere with fewer problems in the crowd. In other words, there won’t be a lot of “bumping and grinding” or fighting found here; it’s more old school and chivalry.

“I think the format is very female-friendly,” said Hauter. “The dance floor tends to draw them in,” he said, adding that men aren’t always as comfortable rushing out to the dance floor, but the women tend to take to it right away.

Hauter handpicked The Jonathan Lee Band and has worked with them to tweak the format and create a consistent level of entertainment at Moonshine Flats. Up-and-coming country acts and regional talent passing through town have made guest appearances alongside the band.

“It’s not a straight-on country bar,” Hauter said. “We try to cast a wide net.”

Moonshine Flats houses five bars with unique elements like the barber “shot” chairs and alcohol slushie machines. Harley Davidson motorcycles hang from the walls, and truck tailgates can be pulled down to provide seating in the lounge area.

For line dancers who work up an appetite, a pick-up window from the adjoining kitchen of Lucky’s Lunch Counter serves up late night bar food until 1 a.m.

For more information, visit

Spike Africa’s

For dinner and a show, Spike Africa’s fits the bill with its fresh seafood menu and recently added live music program on Friday and Saturday nights and during brunch on Sunday.

“We started doing a jazz brunch since Croce’s left and no one else was doing it Downtown,” said general manager Alex Fernandez.

Genres of music vary, but typically the Friday and Saturday night bands play blues, classic rock, R&B and Top 40 hit covers. Live music kicks off on Fridays at 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 p.m., and lasts for three hours each night. On Sundays, a jazz band plays for the brunch crowd starting at 11 a.m.

Since opening last year, Spike Africa’s has fielded questions from customers seeking recommendations for live music venues Downtown. This year the restaurant was able to amend its liquor license to include live music of its own. To help ensure the music doesn’t compete with dinner conversation, they also offer seating in a separate dining room or outside on their elevated sidewalk patio.

“There seems to be a lack of live music Downtown, which encouraged us to amend the license,” Fernandez said. “But we don’t charge a cover like some of the other bars.”

Spike Africa’s offers daily food and drink happy hour specials, including $1 oysters, late night happy hours Monday through Thursday, hosted small bites and desserts on Mondays, and Taco Tuesdays.

They also have a clambake planned and offer monthly beer pairing dinners, including one with The Lost Abbey on Oct. 10.

“We’re the only moderately-priced seafood restaurant Downtown,” Fernandez said. “Spike Africa’s has a casual, fun environment, and the bar lends itself to an upbeat atmosphere.”

Spike Africa’s is located at 411 Broadway Ave. For more information, visit

—Kai Oliver-Kurtin is a local freelance reporter who also works full-time doing social media marketing for the U.S. Navy. Contact her at

One Comments

  1. […] watch the game, and it ended up being a lot of fun. The Tin Roof downtown is known for its robust live music program, but it’s also a great low-key bar to watch the game. The Tin Roof started in Nashville, […]

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