SAN DIEGO — On weekend evenings, there’s been a line out the door for a new “listening bar” concept that took over the space of North Park institution Bar Pink on 30th Street.
If waiting in line to get into a bar isn’t your bag, don’t worry — it’s not Arsalun Tafazoli’s preference either.
Tafazoli is co-founder of Consortium Holdings, the team behind some of San Diego’s hottest spots for food and drink, and their latest venture is still in its infancy after opening in early June.
His first recommendation for those who want to visit the new bar and record shop, Part Time Lover: “Don’t go on a weekend.”
It’s not often a business owner discourages people from entering the building, especially during prime time for building buzz and revenue. But that’s how seriously the team behind Part Time Lover takes their intended experience.
Big crowds might be a good problem to have, but Tafazoli dove straight into the topic unprompted during a phone call with FOX5SanDiego.com earlier this week.
He’s not shy to acknowledge reviews online that praise the ambience and concept while bemoaning a 30-minute wait to get a drink at the bar. He doesn’t love to see lines out the door of what he intends to be “a very casual, communal space.”
“It’s really special that we have the support that we are and that it’s resonating with people,” he said.
But ultimately: “The response has been much stronger than we had anticipated.”
Tafazoli thinks this will even out in due time, with some first-time visitors not returning and a smaller group of knowledgeable regulars forming. In the meantime, he recommends checking out the concept on a weekday, close to 4 p.m. opening.
When the time is right, Tafazoli says “it can be magical.”
The space is designed like a “dream living room,” with comfy furnishings and a world-class sound system, boasting huge speakers and a designated booth for music selectors, who play records on vinyl.
Folk Arts Rare Records, a well-respected name among local collectors, runs a new retail space at Part Time Lover, with staff members selling records and curating the bar’s all-important soundtrack.
Tafazoli raves about the virtues of listening to music on vinyl with a high fidelity sound system, at a time we’ve grown accustomed to compressed digital files and tinny ear buds.
He places his complete trust in Folk Arts. Tafazoli says that record collecting — digging through crates, finding and preserving precious pieces of music made physical — is more a lifestyle than it is a hobby.
When he first picked up the pursuit and looked for guidance, friends in the know repeatedly pointed him toward the University Avenue record store, operating since 1967. Now Folk Arts lends authority to the space, helping attract other top-notch selectors to come play full sides from their collection at the bar.
They don’t play Top 40. They often don’t even play the hip-hop and punk music that made Tafazoli a music lover in the first place. Instead, it’s a highly eclectic mix, the best of the best from a wide range of influences.
“From Arabic disco to soundscape,” Tafazoli said, chuckling. It’s a contrast to the broad-appeal soundtrack pumped into many other San Diego bars. The weekend crowd is mostly used to shouting over it.
That’s part of why he expected to have the opposite problem one month after opening, Tafazoli said. He thought people might find the music “too weird,” the concept “too esoteric” to draw an audience.
That was likely the case for some first-time visitors in the opening weeks, and it’s OK if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, he told FOX 5: “We’re not trying to be all things to all people.”
It was important to Tafazoli, though, to pay homage to the hallowed grounds of Bar Pink, a longtime favorite for the local live music scene. It closed its doors for good in 2020, another business victim to the pandemic.
The team gutted and refreshed the bathrooms’ floors and fixtures but left the show posters plastering their walls in original condition, granting a blast of nostalgia for those longing for the days of Pink. The old bar’s managing partner, Dang Nguyen, is also staying on as manager.
And just like its predecessor, Part Time Lover is at its best when the music takes center stage. The space is designed for patrons to lounge and soak in the sound, not stand among a humming crowd, Tafazoli said. The team even designed their menu to avoid any noisy shaking and stirring or blenders for drinks.
As more people enjoy the intended experience there, Tafazoli believes Part Time Lover can become a “hub for the neighborhood” — not some splashy, exclusive club but a lounge for the local audiophile.
He’s already seeing glimpses of that reality.
“When you catch it at the right time, it’s really special,” he told FOX 5.