A longtime downtown San Jose fixture—Dive Bar—is the latest victim of the pandemic and a shriveling nightlife in the city.
But one man sees opportunity in the dusty old building near San Jose City Hall. He’s bringing a honky-tonk vibe to downtown with Cash Only, a new nightspot preparing to open this summer.
It’s the brainchild of Cache Bouren, owner of Haberdasher, a downtown craft-cocktail lounge.
“I can hear the music, the chairs on the floor, the glasses tinkling,” Bouren told San José Spotlight.
Cash Only’s décor will transport patrons back to the 60s and 70s. Bouren said he wants the bar to feel established and comfortable. Setting the mood will be an eclectic mix of “whisky-drinking music” featuring artists from Sublime to Bob Marley and Johnny Cash.
It’s the first of its kind in the city.
The bar’s name comes from a 1961 old-school jukebox Bouren owns. On the front is a weathered sign that says, “Cash Only” and it only plays Johnny Cash. Continuing the throwback theme, the bar will be cash only with two ATMs on-site. Vintage neon and backlit beer signs will complete the feeling of nostalgia.
Cash Only replaces Dive Bar at 78 East Santa Clara Street. A downtown staple since 2004, Dive Bar was known for karaoke, trivia nights and holiday parties. The watering hole, decorated with red leather furnishings, gold star light fixtures and silhouettes of divers, was the first San Jose bar Bouren had a drink in.
Born and raised on Maui, Bouren met a girl who become his wife at 18 and followed her to Ohio, but she broke his heart and they separated.
“We were too young,” Bouren said.
But that’s when Bouren got his first taste of bartending, bringing home $700 to $900 a night. Eventually, he quit college. He found his true calling working in bars.
Bouren’s mother was also a bartender and his grandma was a cocktail waitress. His mom has a photo of him in a baby carriage on the side of the stage while his dad played guitar.
“It would be dad on stage and mom behind the bar or working tables,” he said. “The place I’m most comfortable is in a bar with a little bit of chaos, the sounds of glassware and people drinking and laughing.”
Bouren said he learned entrepreneurship from his dad. He worked as a bus boy through high school, starting when he was 14.
A friend got him a job in 2007 bartending at Fahrenheit Lounge in San Jose, next to Roco’s Cigar Lounge. With its 25-foot suede curtains, antique radios, leather couches and wing back chairs, Bouren said Roco’s became his favorite place to be.
Bouren told owner Joe Gradillas if he sold whiskey or Manhattans, the place would be packed. Intrigued, Gradillas agreed to partner with him on a new bar. They opened singlebarrel in 2010, a speakeasy craft-cocktail lounge, at 43 West San Salvador Street. Five years later, Bouren changed it to Haberdasher.
“People want cool places to gather,” Bouren said. “As long as you can create rooms like we did with Haberdasher, like our neighbor did with miniBoss… you’re going to be fine.”
Now he’s set to create Cash Only.
George Lahlouh, co-owner of miniBoss, said he’s excited to have a business like Cash Only opening next door.
“Cache is an extremely enthusiastic guy and I think his enthusiasm for what he does and for hospitality is a good thing to have on our block,” Lahlouh said. “It’s nice to have neighbors that draw in folks that you want at your place, too. High tides raise all ships.”
Bouren predicts it will take a while for the city to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered half the storefront businesses in downtown San Jose. Bars and nightlife especially struggled. They were among the first to close and pretty much the last to reopen.
It’s also been difficult to find workers, Bouren said.
“It’s a tough industry to be in and this past year made it harder than anyone could imagine,” he said. “Those who make it long in this industry do so because they’re stubborn, stupid or lucky. I’ve been a mix of all three.”
But Bouren said downtown businesses need people to come out and frequent them. He’s not worried about the economy bouncing back—but that it won’t happen as fast as everyone needs it to.
“I really want to see downtown become thriving and vibrant,” he said, “and the hub that it should be.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]