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Notable Hospitality Group Helping to Resurrect La Jolla’s Historic Whaling Bar

SDCM (Kettner Exchange, the Grass Skirt) will operate the bar inside the iconic La Valencia Hotel

The front of the La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla.
The La Valencia Hotel.
Courtesy photo

A bar that was once a favorite haunt for the rich and famous is being restored to its former glory in downtown La Jolla at the La Valencia Hotel, which has been a landmark on Prospect Street since 1926. In 1949, the Mediterranean-style hotel known as the “Pink Lady” opened the lobby-adjacent Whaling Bar, which became a popular gathering spot for the local community, frequented by regulars like Oscar-winning actor and La Jolla native Gregory Peck and longtime La Jolla resident Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.

The cozy watering hole, filled with dimly-lit booths and decorated with nautical-themed murals painted by the artist Wing Howard, was a fixture in the coastal town for more than 60 years until 2013 when it was revamped into Cafe La Rue, a since-shuttered French bistro.

An old painting hangs on a wall in a bar.
A Wing Howard painting inside the old Whaling Bar.
Candice Woo

As the La Valencia heads into its 97th year, the hotel is announcing that it’s planning to bring back the famed bar with a design that incorporates Howard’s original 1940s nautical paintings. Although the hotel will continue to run the property’s other dining venues, including the Mediterranean Room and the La Sala Lounge, it has chosen an outside hospitality team to run the next iteration of the Whaling Bar.

SDCM Restaurant Group, which owns area hotspots like Little Italy’s Kettner Exchange, Waverly in Cardiff, and the Captain’s Quarters in Pacific Beach, will be overseeing operations of the cocktail lounge. Its culinary team, led by executive chef Brian Redzikowski and beverage director Eric Johnson, is developing a brand new food and drink menu for the bar, which is currently scheduled to reopen this fall in La Jolla.

The Whaling Bar

1132 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037