Duck Dive launches popular new venue just swimmingly
by Mariko Lamb
Published - 08/15/12 - 01:01 PM | 13888 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The ownership team of Duck Dive, which transformed the face of the old Hennessey’s at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Emerald Street, is committed to “doing it right,” with an attractive exterior and interior, top-notch staffing and locally inspired cuisine, cocktails and craft beer.                                                                                            Photos courtesy of Danny Desanti
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With three-dimensional surfboard-inspired décor from walls to ceiling and local beach-themed murals plastered along the west-facing wall, Duck Dive is essentially an extension of the nearby surf brought to street level.

One of Pacific Beach’s latest restaurant-bars has been a popular spot this summer for locals to enjoy a refreshing craft brew or specialty cocktail alongside contemporary gastropub-style American cuisine in a hip, yet casual beach-lounge atmosphere.

With an ideal venue just steps away from the big blue — but just off the bustling main drag — Duck Dive owners Tom Winn, Billy Ramirez, Doug Sondomowicz and Pete Cich determined that a laid-back, surf-inspired restaurant and bar was in order at the former Hennessey’s location at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Emerald Street.

“We wanted to make sure we did it right,” said Winn, a majority owner. “Doug, Billy and Pete have opened bars and restaurant-bars before. For me, it was good to have those people around, because it helped us get things done right.”

The local restaurateurs opened Duck Dive in late March after nearly four months of construction to transform the former Irish pub into the bright, beachy venue it is today.

With the help of interior designer Yale Jallos of Loma Collective Design, the foursome was able to bring its vision to life. The result is an ambiance filled with organic and natural elements, like the wood-slatted ceiling that recreates the nearby rolling waves, the use of raw, rusted and recycled materials throughout the site, a hyperlocal tribute to Pacific Beach with a photo mural of Crystal Pier plastered on the wall, and other imagery that pays homage to the local surfing culture.

“It’s a nice ambiance —a little more upscale for PB — but we want it to be a laid-back local bar, too,” said Winn.

In keeping with the theme, the team at Duck Dive also incorporated locally inspired cuisine, cocktails and craft beer to the menu, as well. Many of the 20 craft beers on tap are from local breweries, and some of the menu items are sourced from about as local as you can get — at Pacific Beach’s Tuesday Farmers Market.

Every Tuesday, chef Juvencio ‘Beto’ Garcia gathers the best produce from the farmers market to create seasonal dishes for “Farm to Table Tuesdays,” where guests can take advantage of a $15 farm-to-table special, including an appetizer and entrée featuring the fresh local produce, starting at 5 p.m.

And Tuesdays aren’t the only day of the week to pay a visit to Duck Dive. The restaurant-bar also features Disco Dive Thursdays, Lazy Sundays, Wine Down Wednesdays, weekday happy hour specials and DJs on Thursday through Sunday nights.

Winn, a long-time service-industry employee and manager, and his colleagues know what the industry is all about, and they brought together the best employees in the business for the launch of their latest venture.

“I actually worked at Hennessey’s before it closed. I brought back about five employees from Hennessey’s, and we brought over some people from Shore Club,” Winn said. “We have a great staff. They’ve all worked in the industry. We’ve bartended. We’ve managed. So we kind of hand-selected them.”

One of Duck Dive’s bartenders, Andrew Hanson, attributed the closeness and cooperativeness of the staff to the attentiveness and camaraderie of the owners.

“These guys are great,” said Hanson. “Everyone has worked at other bars. From my experience and everyone else’s, they [owners] treat their employees like them. It really is like a family in that sense. You can kind of escape that overbearing corporate structure, but everyone still works hard and pulls their own weight.”

Because employees enjoy the company of their fellow coworkers and their job function, this reflects positively on their service to the customers, creating a good experience for everyone.

“Taking a risk on a new bar, you’re not sure what’s going to happen, but I could tell that with the people they brought together that it was guaranteed to work,” Hanson said. “We’re all good buddies, so that keeps everything light and fun.”

The staff and owners’ passion and expertise in the industry is evident at the popular dining establishment.

“I’ve worked in the industry bartending and managing for almost eight years. I’m used to it. I love it. I’m not ever going to get out of it,” said Winn.

Not only can guests expect this local watering hole to stick around for the long haul, they can also expect some great new ventures from Winn as well — both at Duck Dive and beyond — as he hopes to open up another restaurant in San Diego in the next year or two.

For more information or for a full drink and menu list, visit or call (858) 273-DUCK (3825). Duck Dive is located at

4650 Mission Blvd.

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