Mel’s Lounge, a State Street institution since 1963, is closing on August 24. According to Mike Knapp, who has owned Mel’s for the past five years, his rent was doubled to about $10,000. Mel’s, a bar and pool hall that opens at 8:30 a.m., is something of an anachronism in the fashionable Paseo Nuevo mall, which was built around it in the early 1990s.
It is not owned by Paseo Nuevo but, according to County Assessor’s records, by the Santa Barbara-based Hughes Land Holding Trust, owner of the building that also houses Piranha’s bar and restaurant, Pizza by the Slice, and Sunglass Hut, whose rents were also raised. They, however, are staying.
Mel’s occupies a 900-square-foot space, Knapp said, adding, “I can’t raise my prices anymore, and I can’t really expand.” The place is well-patronized from the time it opens at 8:30 a.m. until last call. A second-generation Santa Barbara native, Knapp said he intends to relocate or open a new bar, but does not have a location. Knapp said he has been paying rent at the old rate month-to-month since January 1, partly because a new tenant scheduled to move in then did not, but must vacate by September 1.
Knapp said he did not know if a new tenant has been found for Mel’s spot. Hughes Land Trust could not immediately be reached for comment.