The Coast News Group
The Leucadian Bar has been a popular drinking spot with live music since the late 50s.
The Leucadian Bar has been a popular drinking spot with live music since the late 50s. Courtesy photo
Arts & EntertainmentCitiesEncinitasEncinitas FeaturedNews

Owners give historic Leucadian bar fresh paint, new life

ENCINITAS — Late last year, some Encinitas residents may have noticed a long-standing watering hole updated to a new kind of Leucadia funky. 

Long before the city of Encinitas was incorporated, the future site of Leucadia’s neighborhood “surf” bar was a market. In 1954, Army-veteran John Kentera and his brother Andy first opened Johnny’s Beer Bar, which eventually became The Leucadian Bar and Restaurant. 

The Kentera family still owns the property but sold the business in the 80s. By that time, the bar was well known for its regular live music, bringing in local and other well-known musicians to entertain patrons on a nightly basis. 

Since then, the Leucadian (formerly Bar Leucadian) has changed hands a couple of times and even had a few run-ins with law enforcement over the years.

Today, David Shapiro and his business partners Michael Chopp and Doug Sondomowicz run the business. The trio of owners met as students at Arizona State University before they moved to San Diego in 1998.

Owners of the Leucadian Bar have brought in new pool tables to liven up the historic tavern.
Owners of the Leucadian Bar have brought in new pool tables to liven up the historic tavern. Courtesy photo

“So far so good, it’s been a really great response from the neighborhood,” Shapiro said, regarding the local response to the bar’s recent upgrades. “It was pretty beat down so it took a lot of effort to clean it up.” 

Shapiro and his partners obtained a liquor license in June 2020, but did not reopen the bar, now called simply “Leucadian,” until October. 

Before swinging open the doors to the public, the business partners decided the building needed a fresh coat of paint. 

“Our thought was we wanted to be around another 50 or 60 years,” Shapiro said. “It was gray and black with bars on some of the windows so my partner Doug had the wonderful idea of throwing stripes on the building in Padres’ colors on a cream uniform color. Kind of tying in the sports aspect with Coach Kentera.” 

While the interior also received an upgrade, it was designed to maintain a retro vibe. The addition of brand-new pool tables, darts, shuffleboard and arcade machines serve to liven up the scene.

“But we kept all of the old nautical stuff, the bartop, the portholes behind the bar with the ship paintings. Anything that we could find that could stay, we tried to do that,” Shapiro said. 

Former owner John Kentera Sr. behind the bar at Leucadian Restaurant and Bar in 1957.
Original owner John Kentera Sr. opened what eventually became the Leucadian Bar and Restaurant in 1954. Photo courtesy of The Leucadian Bar

Shapiro said they also tried to make the bar more female-friendly by brightening the building’s exterior and  interior and making some key renovations to the women’s restroom. 

“We wanted to bring a bigger crowd overall and thought that would only happen if the ladies who come are more comfortable. So we made the women’s restroom nice because a lot of women like going to dive bars but they don’t usually like the bathrooms so much,” Shapiro said. 

By law, the new operators can not offer live music at the bar or apply for that permit until two years after acquiring their liquor license. Shapiro and his partners hope to obtain those permits when the time comes due to the bar’s rich history of featuring live music.

Leucadia Bar
The Leucadian Bar has a new look. Courtesy photo

But the energy since reopening the Leucadian Bar has not been lacking. 

Shapiro said patrons young and old have been pleased with the new changes to a familiar spot in town. 

“There’s younger patrons who have come in the early to mid 20s who are having a good time and older patrons who have come in to give us the thumbs up,” Shapiro said. “There was a fellow who lives up the hill who came to our reopening and gave us an old menu from the 50s when it operated as a restaurant.” 

There are plans down the line for more updates to the bar, including upgrading a parking lot that tends to flood during heavy rains and other cosmetic and structural additions. 

For now, the bar is a place for Leucadians of all ages to enjoy a night out. 

“We’re just happy and excited to continue to be a part of Encinitas and Leucadia and we’re so excited about the future and we hope everything continues to open up,” Shapiro said.