SAN DIEGO -- The owners of Martinis Above Fourth announced on Monday the sale of their popular Hillcrest bar, restaurant and community gathering spot to longtime San Diego residents Jim Simpson and Doru Tifui.
The venue, affectionately known by many in the community as MA4, has been owned by Chaz Weathers, Dale Dubach and John Osgood since 2004. In the nearly eight years that the trio has operated MA4, it has been transformed into a popular social hub playing host to numerous birthday and special occasion celebrations, live performances and charitable fundraisers.
Many patrons say that they especially loved being able to visit MA4 whether it be for a fancy night out on the town, a casual drink with friends, or to celebrate.
The venue's large dining room includes linen-covered booths with full dinner service; smaller cocktail tables and belly bars placed near the piano stage; a full bar that wraps around to the outside lounge with views of Fourth Avenue, which was recently renovated and rebranded as "the Overlook," and nightly entertainment.
The venue specializes in its martini menu, with a number of selections that bear names of popular community figures such as Blushing Babette's Hootie Hoo, Coco LaChine, Christina Monet and Lady Ajax.
But beyond the award-winning cuisine, beverages and service, many customers will remember MA4 under the ownership of Weathers, Dubach and Osgood for the personal welcome they gave to every person who entered as they exited the elevator and approached the host stand.
Craig Wilgensbusch, a regular MA4 customer, spoke of one the main reasons he has continued to patronize the restaurant for so long:
"Chaz, Dale, and Johnny always personally greet all of their customers and make them feel as if they'd not just entered their house, but come into a home with family. They are such beautiful people and will be greatly missed at Martinis!"
Weathers, Dubach and Osgood told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News that they made a decision to sell MA4 so they could focus their energies on other business ventures.
The team said that it was important to them that MA4 remain a part of the LGBT community and said they are pleased that the new owners intend to take the establishment to the next level. The new owners plan to add nightly entertainment and a cabaret stage.
Dubach sent out a Facebook message this morning: "Because Jim and Doru are keeping the name and the staff are interested in staying (so we are told) we will not be throwing any party as we want business to run as usual and our stay to continue to do well. We do not want San Diego to stop coming here because we hope to see our friends at MA4. It is based on where we would like to hang out and now we can."
The changing of hands should take place sometime in mid-October, Dubach said.
The outgoing owners say that the past seven years have been a "fantastic ride" and they enjoyed building a staff and clientele that became like a family who have used MA4 as both as a social hub and community service launch point.
"Our particular brand has attracted some of the most talented, wonderful and giving persons with which one could ever hope to work or know," Dubach said.
MA4's commitment to supporting charities has been a major part of the company's business over the last several years, with some of the community's most popular fundraising programs being hosted at or supported by Weathers, Dubach, Osgood and staff.
"Team MA4" was the number one fundraising team at this past weekend's AIDS Walk & Run San Diego, collecting over $31,000 in donations for the event. Prior to the event, MA4 hosted its annual Summer Splash Party which raised over $8,000 for the AIDS Walk team.
One of the community's most beloved fundraisers, the annual holiday wreath auction benefiting the Queen Eddie Conlon Youth Fund has also been held annually at MA4, and the outgoing owners say that more than $127,000 has been raised at the event over the past seven years.
Ben M. Gomez, a veteran and longtime community activist, said that along with spending a lot of time at MA4 celebrating personal occasions, the causes he has fought for have benefited from the support of Weathers, Dubach and Osgood.
"For years, Chaz and Dale have bent over backwards for every event that I was in charge of, especially during the battle of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" Gomez said. "We hosted many events and the boys took care of every request.
"I celebrated many birthdays there as well. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for everything they have done for me and for the community. You'll be missed."
Many other community members expressed similar sentiments:
"If you've ever been to Martinis Above Fourth, the dedication that Dale, Chaz and Johnny have all put into one of my personal favorite Hillcrest establishments is evident. Their tireless effort has also shown itself time after time in all the various community events and fundraising that their team is known for," said community activist Dave McCulloch. "I'm happy knowing that [Weathers, Dubach, and Osgood] will always be a part of our community, and have high hopes that Martinis new owners will be just as involved."
"Martinis Above Fourth has provided incredible leadership on so many charitable events for our community - AIDS Walk San Diego, the Wreath Auction to benefit LGBT youth, Dine Out for Life and so many others, across years," said Dr. Delores Jacobs, CEO of The San Diego LGBT Community Center. "Their generosity, team spirit and community commitment has been remarkable and we will all miss them terribly! We wish them all well and all success - they have certainly earned it!"
"Working with and knowing Dale, Chaz, and Johnny for so many years has been such a privilege," said Johnathan Hale, CEO of Hale Media, Inc. "They have created a successful business that is loved by the community while giving countless dollars back into the organizations that support that community. They will be missed!"
Weathers, Dubach and Osgood hope that the San Diego community will embrance the "change of hands" and continue supporting the new owners and other businesses that support charities.
News of the sale came as a surprise to many regular customers and other community members who seemed to have nothing but praise for the departing ownership:
"Martinis is such a special place, classy, stylish, and always a great time," downtown resident Joseph Sims said. "Thanks to the dedicated owners and their leadership, Martinis will always be part of our GLBT world! Dale, Chaz and John, we will miss you but we know you will leave the Martini legacy in great hands. We look forward to supporting you in your next adventure - we raise our martini glass to you. Thank you!"
"I couldn't imagine living in my future years without this place as it is today. It is classy, thoughtful and practically one in the same for community and business," Hillcrest fitness trainer Russell Bui said. "I bid them farewell on this venture and best of luck on their next."
"All I think about when I think about Martinis is ... their amazing martinis," Hillcrest resident Sean Sala said. "They have such a classy LGBT friendly culture and style and an incredible good menu. To hear that instead of trying to be just business savvy, and have focused on the LGBT friendly environment, is exceptional. Job well done and best wishes to you all in the future!"
Martinis Above Fourth, located on the second floor of 3940 Fourth Ave., will remain with its regular hours through the transition.
For more information, click HERE.