The Tropics

The Tropics (1952-1970) was another South Seas-themed beer bar run by the mob-connected Matranga family (The Hula Hut, Aloha Club, The Java). The location at First and Market Streets was right across from the Spreckels Theatre, and had seen quite a history.

The Tropics San DiegoFollowing Caesar Cardini’s lead, restaurateur Victor DeLu quit his businesses in Tijuana in 1935, then moved to San Diego. DeLu opened up the wildly successful Vick’s Cafe in the spot.

Over the years it’s identity slowly evolved toward the tropical — Vic’s Place, Vick’s Cafe, Vic’s Tropics, and finally Vic’s Tropical Nuthouse (continuous vaudevillian clown shows). In 1952 Joseph, Gaspare and Big Frank Matranga bought the nuthouse and simplified the name to The Tropics.

The Matrangas were continually under the scrutiny of San Diego Vice. Employee turnover was so great, they had a standing classified ad for cocktail waitresses in the newspaper. Daily. And by 1965, they were advertising for go-go girls.

The building was razed and in it’s place developer Conrad Arnholt Smith built his United States National Bank tower. The MTS Transit Store sits now where The Tropics once was.

The Tropics ashtray and matchbook


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

One thought on “The Tropics

  1. OMG just found this…Victor De Lu was my grandfather. He also had a bar in Tijuana that my father would go to on weekends in the 1920s and 1930s. He always told me about Rita Hayworth dancing there with a different name. Told me of the Longest Bar, too. They had a winery company in Morgan Hill California. My dad said they would take the wine grapes to Tijuana and make wine. So funny I was just looking up my maiden name De Lu. Never know what you will find!

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