SAN DIEGO, California -- Hillcrest’s most iconic gay restaurant and bar - Urban MO’s Bar & Grill - is now undergoing significant expansions this month to debut for the 2014-15 winter season.
The outdoor patio has been demolished in preparation for an extensive expansion and renovation. The property will remain open for business during the expansions, which started this week.
The expansion is scheduled for completion no later than Dec. 26, with all restaurant, bar and patio amenities accessible to guests including an expanded non-smoking outdoor patio area, an expanded outdoor smoking section, private dining cabanas, additional restrooms and other public areas.
The expansion will also include a second-story addition that will house the company’s corporate offices. Additionally two paid parking lots have been secured through a separate neighboring company to help with the loss of four parking spaces in the expansion footprint.
“Urban MO’s Bar & Grill is considered the social hub of Hillcrest and the No. 1 LGBT hot spot in San Diego. We offer FUN, FUN, FUN in a high-energy adult playground. We are world famous for our drinks, and our hearty burgers are consistently voted amongst the best in San Diego. It's no wonder over 50% of our staff has been employed within our company for over 15 years and we now have a two-year wait for new hires,” said Chris Shaw, company president.
“This expansion will bring our iconic and flagship concept to the forefront of Hillcrest’s evolution, providing guests with an open and inviting space that guests can look out from -- much different from the 1990s when we first opened.”
During the past year, Urban MO’s has simplified its culinary operations to focus on food quality and dining specials like its incredibly popular Home-Made Pot Pies. It has evolved its service approach to be more flexible and personal to anticipate guest needs, and is introducing its largest web redesign since the company was founded.
The new website includes a link with frequent updates and a photo slideshow where guests can interact with the MO’s Universe team to learn more about the expansion. Guests are also invited to hashtag their photos #MOsExpansion for an interactive expansion experience online.
The scope of this renovation includes a larger outdoor bar with wrap-around seating, new outdoor furnishings, lighting and the installation of air circulation. Additionally, the restaurant’s cold dry storage have been demolished to make room for new equipment with private access to the company’s upstairs headquarters. The patio’s refresh will include new furnishings, textiles, paint, artwork and lighting designed to maintain the authentic character and over-the-top ambiance for which the company is known.
Urban MO’s underwent renovations in 2011. It was originally established as Hamburger Mary’s in 1992, and underwent a “sex change” and complete rebranding in 2007. The property was re-named Urban MO’s Bar & Grill after an inside joke on the popular TV series “Will & Grace” in which Karen Walker called out the shows stars as “Just one of the ‘Mos. (short for homo’s).”
The 2011 renovation included the addition of new indoor flooring, tables and furnishings as well as large side-by-side, glass garage door street side, veranda seating. A portion of the outdoor patio was renovated and included a large folding floor to ceiling door that opens to the patio. Heating for year-round access, landscaping and new sidewalks were also installed in anticipation of the second phase and more expansive renovation.
Significant upgrades to the sound and lighting system have taken place over the past year, with the ability to cater music to guests’ needs on the patio happening every Sunday for the past year.
This past year, Gossip Grill -- one of the three other restaurants operated by Chris Shaw -- also received a major transformation, moving from its original location at Normal and University to a bigger location at Vermont and University nearly tripling its footprint. That move has made Gossip Grill the largest and most successful women’s bar in California as one of the last remaining lesbian bars in the state after the closing of San Francisco’s iconic Lexington Club later this month and Los Angeles’ The Palms earlier this year.
Shaw’s collection of concepts includes Baja Betty’s, home of the Original Saturday Brunch, and Hillcrest Brewing Company, the world’s first gay brewery.
The company has worked closely with neighbors to secure additional paid parking on Third Avenue and another paid parking lot directly behind its 308 University Property. Guests will be able to obtain validation at Urban MO’s for discounted parking in both lots.
“Hillcrest will undergo significant changes in the next several years with the SANDAG bike plan, and it is important to us that our guest experience is not disturbed during the process,” Shaw said. “Our goal in expanding Urban MO’s is to enhance the overall guest experience. The expansion of Urban MO’s Bar & Grill marks the latest investment in our company and we are proud to announce that we have also signed a new 20 year lease to our property, meaning we are here to STAY and HAVE FUN for another 20 years!”
“Being ‘Out & Proud’ is in,” said Eddie Reynoso, Marketing & Public Relations Director. “And we are not just ‘Out’, we are OVER THE TOP FUN! Our outdoor patio was voted as the ‘Third Best Patio Bar In The World’ by readers of GayCities/Queerty in 2010. Zagat, GayTravel, Queerty, FourSquare, AOL, Huffington Post and most recently Travel + Leisure all have credited all our concepts as one of the best reasons to visit LGBT San Diego. (sources listed below). And this expansion will truly continue to help elevate San Diego as one of the countries top LGBT tourist destinations, by continuing to raise the bar of outdoor dining and entertainment.”
“We are signaling the broader foundational changes the brand is making to evolve the guest experience for our local community, while also planning for the future. Over the past several years we have been sending a strong signal to our guests that MO’s Universe is bringing new over-the-top experiences to the table, not just for Hillcrest residents but in our overall goal to bring more San Diegans and LGBT tourists and our allies to experience San Diego’s most colorful and diverse neighborhood and all its dining and entertainment options.”