Sipping back to the Roaring Twenties – San Diego Downtown News



Frank Sabatini Jr.

Gone are the gym memberships, basement pool, and gaming tables that have drawn military and local residents since 1924. Now, the historic building at 500 W. Broadway – long known as Armed Services YMCA – is in the creative hands of Sage Hospitality Group, a Denver-based company that took over operations from Azul Hospitality in San Diego last year.

Under Azul, the eight-story, Grade II listed building was transformed into The Guild, a stylish boutique hotel with a spacious lobby bar and courtyard restaurant. Soon after, it was ranked top ten by USA Today as one of the best new hotels in the country.

Bartender Robert Chacon completes The Million Dollar ‘Bill’ Cocktail (by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

Sage entered the pandemic for several months after The Guild fell into a deep slump due to lockdowns and less travel. The bar and lounge were completely closed.

“There was no food or drink. It was a dead beam that we pulled out of the ground, ”said Operations Director Miguel Lopez. “Now it’s a full-blown operation, seven nights a week.”

The Guild recently presented itself to the public again as a focal point for food and drinks, which can be enjoyed either at the large bar or in two inviting outdoor lounge areas.

The Dew Drop Cocktail (Courtesy The Guild)

At a recent kickoff party, The Guild’s new specialty cocktails took center stage. Each of the eight new drinks is based on a tingling anecdote about San Diego in the 1920s and early 30s.

Who would have thought there was a whispering pub downtown called The Dew Drop Inn that lost everything in a fire but a Prohibition bourbon icebox? Hence the dew drop cocktail based on bourbon, enriched for today’s connoisseurs with lime, ginger, pomegranate and allspice. Located in the red light district of Stingaree (now part of the Gaslamp Quarter), firefighters reportedly discovered the alcohol resting on a block of ice after breaking open the undamaged crate.

An inauguration ceremony shortly after the building opened as a YMCA (Courtesy The Guild)

The Million Dollar “Bill” is an eye-catching cocktail that pays homage to Congressman William Kettner from San Diego. He was known to President Roosevelt at the time as “The Million Dollar Congressman” because he had land contracts with “every naval base in San Diego,” according to Lopez’s research. In addition, San Diego’s first fire engine was named after Kettner.

“The boat put out fire on the water,” explained Lopez, pointing out that the drink is refined with a smoky essence that the bartender achieves by burning a fake million dollar bill over it. This element adds pizzazz to a combination of rum, kiwi syrup, lemon and falernum.

The old YMCA signage remains on top of the structure. (Courtesy of the guild)

A piece about old fashion is called Rodgers & Stevenson. It is named after the building’s original architects, Lincoln Rodgers and Frank Stevenson. The drink consists of Ritterhouse Rye whiskey, Cynar liqueur and malt syrup from our own production.

The recipes are a collaboration between senior bartender Robert Chacon (formerly Pendry San Diego) and bar advisor Lee Zaremba, a beverage expert who will soon be opening an upscale cocktail bar in Los Angeles. Each beverage specialty contains a brief description of its historical representation.

Wine and local draft beer are also available, along with a menu of homemade jerky meat, duck fat fries, burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, desserts, and more.

Over the years the west end of the building has housed a few different kitchens, including the Grand Central Cafe. More recently, today’s inner courtyard lounge has given way to the former Mediterranean-inspired restaurant Luca.

The guild’s general manager, Onal Kucuk, noted that the building has changed hands “many times” over the decades and that both the hotel and bar have been in operation since the pandemic.

A seating area in the courtyard (photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

“The building originally opened in 2019 as The Guild under a different management company. It was in operation for eight months, closed for three months, and then we reopened it in August last year in the middle of the pandemic. We are just re-entering the San Diego market as a luxury lifestyle hotel. It’s The Guild 2.0 – basically our second reopening. “

The bar and kitchen are open daily from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call 619-795-6000 or visit

– Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at


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