Step Back in History at the Daley Double Saloon Encinitas’ First and Oldest Bar by Kyle Thomas – March 2018 (Encinitas Magazine Stories of Encinitas CA)
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
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
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
“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
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
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.