Tiki Central / Locating Tiki
Hula Hut, San Diego, CA (bar)
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The Cuckoo Club must have been a sister bar. Sailors dream.
Here's the scoop on San Diego's Hula Hut, from an upcoming article I'm doing on San Diego Tiki... Martin.
(1946-1965) The Hula Hut was a re-branded version of The Tropics South Seas-themed restaurant & bar in the renovated Dunlac Hotel building. It was purchased by ‘Big Frank’ Matranga and his brother Leo Matranga, members of the Los Angeles mob. They and brothers Joseph Ernesto Matranga (Cuckoo Club) and Gaspare Matranga (Cuckoo Club[/i]) worked with Anthony ‘Papa Tony’ Mirabile, under San Diego boss Frank ‘Bomp’ Bompensiero. For years the Matrangas and Mirabiles bought, sold and operated many San Diego and Tijuana bars, restaurants and clubs.
Not quite one year later, The Hula Hut was raided by police and 37 people were arrested for illegal gaming. The Matrangas had a dice game going in the bar. Law enforcement received a tip — someone overheard the woman running the game brag about taking in over $5000 a night. So the police arrested everybody, including innocent bar patrons, and sorted it out later downtown.
Apparently under San Diego gaming rules at the time, a dice game for prizes of, say, free drinks to the winner, was allowed. But cash prizes were unlawful.
That run-down area – Sailor’s Row — had been deteriorating for awhile, and business was slowing. Post-war San Diego did not have the same number of thirsty sailors it once did. Local officials wanted to redevelop the whole area into a new City Center. There was even a proposal by designer Al Goodman and others to tear out the old Horton fountain and modernize the whole Plaza.
Developers Conrad Arnholt Smith and John Alessio (Agua Caliente Racetrack, Mister A’s) bought up the block and built the 25-story Westgate Plaza Hotel. Where The Tropics and The Hula Hut once were is now the Westgate Gourmet Shop.
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