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On December 5th, 1992, a very unique establishment on La Jolla ‘s Pearl Street opened its doors. A place where one can be swallowed up into the social scene, or put on headphones, and reside in the world of their personal music preference. Co-owner Danny O’ Halloran has taken the ever-popular concept of the coffee house and combined it with the technological breakthrough of the compact disc. The result; Discafe.


Whether relaxing at the bar, or browsing the numerous discs for listening and purchase, the vanilla-almond aroma and rich, Spanish sounds of Ottmar Liebert caress the senses. Several monitors provide entertainment with various media like computer animation, snowboarding footage, and music videos.

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O’ Halloran explains what separates Discafe from the numerous cafes along La Jolla’s streets. The main thing about this (Discafe) is taking a European way of selling c.d.’s which is to listen before you buy. Having the coffee shop as an accessory, and then making it a club atmosphere where it’s more of a hangout.


Danny derived the concept of the C.D. listening bar from World of Music, a similar bar in Munich, Germany. He enlisted the help of designer Mike Martin, who recently beautified Society Billiard Cafe in Pacific Beach. Using Danny’s pictures from Network, a billiard hall in Spain, Mike was able to re-create the Barcelona-techno style Danny wanted, using elements of maple and steel.


Prominent San Diego interior designer Richard Kaleh calls Discafe avant-garde because it has a real mix of furnishings and styles. There’s something from the 50’s; there’s something from the 60’s, and there’s also a projection of the future going on here.

The upstairs loft houses the eleven listening stations where people listen to their chosen discs, or any of the nine pre-selected c.d.’s The sitting bar and display racks occupy the space below. Numerous beverages and snacks are offered at the bar. Customize your coffee with cream, sugar, or any of the six DaVinci syrups. Order drinks you’ve never even heard of before.


Discafe attracts an older crowd in the morning and then a younger population throughout the afternoon. In the later hours, the place is dominated by people in their 20’s and 30’s. Late meaning open until 2:00 a.m. on the weekdays and until 3:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, which makes Discafe one of the few nocturnal members of La Jolla ‘s commercial community.

The store is mainly run by Danny and his brother Mike, who handles the advertising and other public relations. Robert O’Quinn is a vital asset of Discafe, handling all the inventory and ordering. However, the numerous employees must not be overlooked, because they are the ones we see; the ones we talk with; the ones who make coming to Discafe so enjoyable.

Future plans for Discafe include possible live Jazz and performances from local bands like Rocket from the Crypt and Three Mile Pilots. Prospective cafe owners will hopefully realize the cause of Discafe’s tremendous success. Mesa student and Discafe employee Jack Algar states, There’s more than just coffee…there’s music.


The atmosphere is clean, and the people are friendly. Sit back, drink what you want, and listen to music you like. On a nearby flyer, you discover a phrase that explains Discafe’s appeal. “The Cheers of the modern, health-conscious West boasts, This ain’t no warehouse, it’s more like your house.”

The photos by Dan Soderberg appeared in Robert Mealing’s 1993 BLEND MAGAZINE. The above text is from the 02/08/93 issue of the Mesa Press, the Mesa College Newspaper which was reposted on Clark Wyatt’s Blog, The Clarkive

I am Dan Soderberg, award winning documentary film maker and phototgrapher specializing in architecture, historic preservation and nature.

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