The days are numbered for Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar. U-T San Diego reported last weekend that the famed Downtown restaurant and jazz venue, popular with conventioneers, tourists and local jazz lovers, will close at the end of the year.
Croce's owner Ingrid Croce told the U-T that she's leaving because she reached an impasse with the building's landlord over a lease dispute stemming from noise issues with the nightclub downstairs, Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse.
The run of Croce's is not over entirely: Croce plans to open a new version of the restaurant in Bankers Hill later this year. But local musicians bemoan the eventual loss of this beloved haunt that sits at the corner of Fifth Avenue and F Street.
"I've been working for [Ingrid Croce] for 30 years right on that corner," says veteran jazz musician Daniel Jackson, 76. "If anybody has brought any kind of class to the Gaslamp, it's her. Now, once she leaves, it's going to be trashy, and the tourists are not going to like it."
Opened in 1985, Croce's has long been a key spot for working jazz musicians, who appreciate that Croce pays them with a stable check—rather than a cut of door money—and doesn't put restrictions on what they can play.
"There's not many rooms where you can play what you want to play," says Archie Thompson of Croce's every Sunday. "She just lets you do your thing. That's kind of rare."
Since the Pussycat Dolls club moved in, though, musicians have had to compete with the electronic dance music pulsating below late at night.
"You can hear the bass lines," says Holly Hofmann, who plays in a quartet with her husband, Mike Wofford, every other Tuesday. "You can feel it up through your feet. It rattles the piano."
Croce tells CityBeat that she plans to have music at the new restaurant, which she's calling Croce's Park West. But it won't be the same as the original Croce's.
"You can't re-create Croce's. It was meant to be on that corner," she says. "That's where it lives, and that's where the memories continue to be."