If your interested in stepping back in time and getting a feel for what Encinitas was like in days long past, all you have to do is pay a visit to the Daley Double Saloon at 546 First Street.
The Daley Double Saloon qualifies as one of the most unique and historical buildings in Encinitas. It’s the site of Encinitas’ first and oldest bar, as well as the second oldest downtown business in Encinitas (second only to the La Paloma Theater) and is a place where time appears to have stood still having changed very little over the past 84 years.
The building the Saloon is housed in was built circa 1915 and according to the Encinitas Historical Society, this location has always been a drinking establishment, which leads one to speculate what may have really been happening there during the prohibition era of Encinitas?
We know that a gentleman by the name of E.E Wright owned the building in 1928 (during the prohibition era) and in 1934 following the appeal of prohibition, the building was purchased by Maurice Delay where he opened the Village Rendezvous.
It was Mr. Delay who installed the fabulous 50-foot long walnut burl wood bar that is still the centerpiece of the Daley Double Saloon today.
Delay also added the second story addition above the Saloon, which has served as an office, housing quarters for Jockey’s from the Del Mar Race Track and was even known to be the site of an illegal poker room complete with an electric button installed at the downstairs bar so the bartenders could notify the gamblers upstairs when the police stopped by to pay a visit.
One Encinitas old timer has also confirmed the urban legend that the upstairs was once a ‘red light district’ during the World War II era, is in fact true.
Today the upstairs is rented as a private apartment to the perfect tenant— Todd a bartender who works the evening shift at a bar in San Marcos, so he’s gone at night when things are raucous and can sleep in the day when things are mellow.
The Village Rendezvous became more than just bar after Maurice added a section he called ‘The Hideaway’ on the buildings north side, which housed a Café and had a dance floor where you could dance to live music with your gal on Friday and Saturday nights or listen to the jukebox when the band had the night off. In the same building, Mr. Delay also operated ‘Maurice’s Liquor Store’ where you could buy your Lucky Lager Beer, 3 for 25ç or a nice bottle of wine for 75ç.
The excitement didn’t stop there though! Maurice then decided to start promoting local boxing matches on Sunday afternoons and built an outdoor boxing ring in the patio area on the north side of the property.
Longtime Encinitas local resident and celebrated artist Fred Ashley (born in 1929 and soon to be 89 years old), remembers well when the Encinitas locals started boxing in the ring at the Rendezvous. “I must have been about 10-years old” Fred recounts, “when I saw my first fight there. The fight was to settle a dispute between my Uncle Sam Coutts and another Encinitas local Bedford Swain, who lived over on Second Street between ‘E’ and ‘F’ Street.”
“My Uncle Sam and his twin Brother Mike had moved down from Canada when they were younger and lived on my grandfather Fred Coutts ranch in Leucadia, and those two were the toughest guys in town. Nobody could whip their ass!” Fred says with a grin. “Sam was just a badass and looked like one too. He had only one eye because he injured it when he was a kid after stuffing a shotgun with black powder and nuts and bolts on top of the shotgun shell, and when he fired it the barrel exploded, taking his eye with it.”
“Uncle Sam,” Fred explains, “used to hang out at Ruby’s Bar in Leucadia, which was about a half block south of where Leucadia Donuts is now. Marines would come into the bar from Camp Pendleton and they thought they were pretty tough until they would try and pick a fight with Uncle Sam. He’d clock them good and slide them all right down to the end of the bar, two or three at a time. He was one tough hombre.”
“I don’t recall what Uncle Sam and Bedford Swain’s beef was about but I do remember that Sam won the fight that day with Bedford.” Fred is quick to point out that, “After that fight between my Uncle and Bedford, the Coutts family and the Swain family worked out their differences and got back on civil terms.” Fred says he doesn’t want to stir up any hard feelings between the two families again as a result of retelling this story.
The fight ring at the Rendezvous” Fred recalls, “was the place where Encinitas locals would occasionally settle their disputes or family feuds.” Mostly, however, the fighters were local Encinitas boys that were paid $5.00 to fight. Some of Encinitas’ better fighters would even travel as a group to fight in other towns, including Tijuana.
In 1942 Mr. Delay sold the property, and the new owners, Alex and Gladys Gounaris, renamed their new establishment the Grand Café that included the addition of a Mexican restaurant in the ‘Hideaway’ section, which was then later replaced by a barbershop. The barbershop owner Anne Storey, was said to be the only lady barber on the coast. Anne maintained her business there until 1967.
In 1957 following the death of the death of Alex Gounaris, Gladys sold the building to Frank and Ruby Daley and the establishment was renamed the Daley Double Saloon, a clever play on words inspired by the neighboring Del Mar Race Track.
Both Frank and Ruby were been born in Canada and Frank had been a professional hockey player for nearly 20 years. Frank’s love and encyclopedic knowledge of sports helped establish him as a popular daytime bartender at ‘The Double’.
In 1968, at age 60, while working behind his bar Frank suffered a major heart attack. His wife Ruby was there at the time and called the fire department who took him to Tri-City hospital where he passed away three weeks later.
Nancy, Frank and Ruby’s daughter, who had been a social worker and then a schoolteacher, started working as a bartender and to help Ruby run the Saloon in 1971. Historically the Saloon’s clientele were typically local, colorful regulars, mostly elderly. Beginning in the 70’s the Saloon started attracting a younger evening crowd in their twenties, because as one of the bartenders once explained, “They have the stamina to stay up till 2:00 a.m. and go to work the next morning”
Though tiny, Ruby made a good bouncer. As the story goes, she wouldn’t take any guff from a patron if he was misbehaving and would poke a finger in his chest saying, “Young man, do you act like this at home?”
One of the signature features of the Saloon are it’s three large murals which were painted by a customer in 1941 depicting Encinitas as an old western town during its early settlement and pioneer days of the late 1800s. The mural’s fading colors were later touched up after the Daleys bought the Saloon, by a marine who added his signature to the murals.
In 2001 the Saloon gained national notoriety when it made the CNN nightly news after four of then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s off-duty secret service agents got into a street brawl with some Encinitas and Carlsbad locals outside the Saloon while trying to pick up on their women to bring them back to their hotel. One agent had his nose broken and one of the Saloon’s patrons, whose girlfriend was being hit on by an agent had part of his ear bitten off by the same agent, supposedly because he was trying to take the agent’s gun. No agents were arrested. Shortly after that incident, however, the secret service announced that 100 agents would undergo ethics training.
In 2007, at 71 years of age, Nancy Daley decided to sell the Daley Double Saloon to Dale Polselli who is still the current owner today. Dale knew better than to make any changes to the now more popular than ever Saloon. He did, however, use the former ‘Hideaway” and patio section on the north side to build a newer modern upscale club called ‘Shelter’ so patrons now have the choice to go old school or new school.