The Java

The Java bar, San Diego, 1950The Java, with its exotic Pacific theme, was yet another Matranga family bar designed to appeal to the military crowd of post-war San Diego. Located across the street from the Balboa Theatre, just south of Horton Plaza Park. Frank Matranga officially owned the troubled liquor license, under the name ‘Francisco.’ He and his brothers were associated with the Los Angeles branch of the mob, and together with other local families controlled many bars within the San Diego area. At the time they also operated The Buccaneer and Kelly’s.

In 1958, two brazen sailors robbed The Java at gunpoint. They locked Matranga and staff in a room, and attacked a waitress. The resulting news reports only increased their business.

The next year, The Java’s license was suspended by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department in a city-wide sting targeting businesses linked with organized crime.

Local mobster Frank Bompensiero was on the Feds’ radar. In all, half of San Diego’s downtown bars lost their licenses, including many owned by Bompensiero, the Matrangas, and their relatives.

New owners John and Mary Martinico took over, and The Java survived into the mid-1960s. The location now houses an art gallery.


Citation: Martin S. Lindsay. ‘The java.’ Classic San Diego: tasty bites from the history of America’s finest city. Web. < >

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