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Summer 1974
Origin of Belly Up

After months of searching for a location for their dream bar, Dave Hodges and Greg Gilholm acquire an old Quonset hut on Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach. The Quonset hut previously housed a waterbed manufacturing and showroom space. The space became available because the waterbed business had gone under. The dual meaning of “belly up” was not lost on Dave and Greg, who decided to name their bar The Belly Up Tavern.

Origin of Belly Up
September 28, 1974
Belly Up Tavern Opens
Belly Up Tavern's first sign

Belly Up opens its door on Dave Hodges’ birthday, September 28, 1974. The first patrons were welcomed to Belly Up Tavern with a sign that was made out of an end of an old wooden cable spool. One can not help notice that the spool resembles a vinyl record.


David's Birthday
Dating Bar

Check out the slide show to see what is was like at the Belly Up before live music by clicking on the image above.
Belly Up Tavern caters to young couples. Greg Gilholm describes it as a “dating bar”.  During this time The bar is only licensed to sell beer and wine. In the back, where the stage now resides, ping pong tables line the wall. The Belly Up Tavern also featured red felt covered pool tables, checkered tables for playing chess and checkers, pinball machines and the first ever pong game in California. The early menu featured Polish sausage sandwiches and pickled eggs. What was important to Dave and Greg and what to this day Greg thinks was one of the key policies to the bars ultimate success was to keep the restrooms spotless. A tradition that is still kept to this day. A mustached Greg Gilholm is seen here playing ping pong.

October 31, 1975
First Halloween Bash

Click on the image to see a slideshow of ghosts from 1975.

February 18, 1976
Belly Up Tavern’s First Live Show!
Belly Up Tavern’s First Live Show!

The first band to play at the Belly Up was a bluegrass band who called themselves Squatters Last Rights. At the time the Belly Up Tavern did not have a stage, instead the ping pong tables were removed to make room for performers.


In the undated picture above,  you can see a row of phone booths and what today are large palms in front of Belly Up Tavern.

Finger Logo
70s Belly Up Tavern logo

With the success of Belly Up Tavern’s first live performance, which featured Squatters Last Rights, Dave Hodges begins searching for other bands to play at his venue. He builds a small stage from some of the scrap material left over from when the space built waterbeds. The Belly Up Tavern also starts selling booze along with beer and wine.

It was during this time that Belly Up Tavern unveils a new logo–a finger showing you the way of the belly.

December 1976
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee

One of the first blues acts to play on the newly built low stage was Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Check out the Christmas tree to the left of the stage as well as the silhouetted drummer backlit behind Brownie McGhee. Filmed with a Super 8mm film camera by Greg Gilholm.


Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee
Live Music
Live Music

The Belly Up Tavern begins its journey as being the place to see live music in North County San Diego. More accomplished musicians play at the club including Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Ted Schultz, and Randy Godfried. In the early days the Belly Up Tavern featured mostly blues, bluegrass and rock ‘n’ roll. Photo by Steve Sherman


Dave Hodges creates a large paper mache shark to purge his fear of great whites. To this day the shark remains installed above the crowds at the Belly Up. Click on the shark above to see it come to life from wire and newspapers.

December 31, 1977
New Years Eve Parties!
McCann New Years Eve Poster 1977

The Jerry McCann Band performs at Belly Up Tavern’s first New Year’s Eve Bash which featured live music. The band becomes the house band and plays at the Belly Up Tavern on regular basis for nearly a decade.

Late 70s - Early 80s
Time To Boogie!
Lightning Hopkins

The Belly Up Tavern avoids most of the late 70s and early 80s disco fever craze by sticking to blues and rock ‘n’ roll, however that does not stop them from making their first neon sign have a nod and wink to disco. Later another neon sign displaying the club’s logo will continue to shine in in the back of the bar just to the right of the stage. During the late 70s and early 80s greats like Etta James, Big Mama Thorton, Big Joe Turner, and Lightnin’ Hopkins (shown above) graced the stage at the Belly Up Tavern.


Time To Boogie window
January 11, 1981
Etta James
Etta james

Etta James Plays at the Belly Up for her first time. A scissors jack elevator is added to the new stage at her request. She will continue to perform at the Belly Up for many years; her last concert just a few years before her death in 2012. The poster below was from her show in 2003.

Etta James Scrojo Poster 2003
Friday April 2, 1982
Friday Happy Hours!
Happy Hour

Belly Up Tavern’s first Friday Happy Hours. The first few Friday Happy Hours featured Dixieland Jazz Bands. The idea came about after Dave and Greg watched a Dixieland Jazz Band at the Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz.

July 1983
Three Generations of the Blues
BIG MAMA THORTON, SIPPIE WALLACE and JEANNIE CHEATAM perform at the Belly Up Tavern. They were recorded live by KPBS



Later in 2006 Jeannie writes about her experience at the Belly Up Tavern in her book Meet Me with Your Black Drawers On. Below is a page from her book.
Three Generations of the Blues
New Logo

Circle Logo replaces finger logo


neon logo
September 1, 1983
Master of the Telecaster
Albert Collins

Legendary guitarist Albert Collins performs the blues at the Belly Up Tavern. Collins played the club many times over the years, driving his own tour bus, until he sadly passed away from lung cancer November 24, 1993
Photo by Steve Sherman

Buddy Guy & Junior Wells
Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy Guy and Junior Wells play their first shows at the Belly Up Tavern. Above, Buddy Guy gives Belly Up Tavern staff a helpful hand in how to play a guitar.

February 6, 1986
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers

A newspaper clipping claims that the Red Hot Chili Peppers will “lively up” the Belly Up Tavern!


Red hot Chili Peppers

June 5, 1987
Mick Fleetwood
Mick Fleetwood
Mick Fleetwood plays for the first time at the Belly Up in 1987. He continues to drum the blues at the Belly Up Tavern for many years. Check out his concert at the Belly Up in 2016.
February 23, 1989
The Neville Brothers
Neville Brothers

The Neville Brothers perform for their first time on February 23, 1989 at the Belly Up Tavern. They will come back to play at their favorite Solana Beach Quonset hut many times. The Scrojo Poster seen here is from their 2002 concert.

November 13, 1989
George Clinton
George Clinton

George Clinton’s performs for his first time in 1989 at the Belly Up Tavern. Undated photo above by Steve Sherman
Live recording of George Clinton at the Belly Up in 1993 below.

Movin’ On Up

Curtis Mayfield performs at the Belly Up Tavern


 Curtis Mayfield

May 29, 1994
No Doubt
No Doubt

No Doubt performs at the Belly Up Tavern

Wild Note Cafe opens
Wild Note

Belly Up opens a small restaurant next door which has direct access to the club. Their motto: Wine, Dine, Skip the Line! Dine at the Wild Note Cafe before the show and skip the line. (The line to get into the club)

March 16, 2001
Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson performs and releases a free recording of this event. Click here to listen!

September 18, 2002
Maroon 5
Maroon 5

Maroon 5 performs at the Belly Up Tavern

April 24, 2003
Black Eyed Peas
Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas perform at the Belly Up Tavern.

July 16, 2003
New Owners

Steve Goldberg and Phil Berkovitz acquire the Belly Up Tavern from Dave Hodges

August 22, 2003
Toots and the Maytals
Toots and the Maytals

Toots and the Maytals perform the first of many concerts at the Belly Up Tavern.

January 29, 2007
Billboard Top 100
Daughtry plays the Belly Up the same week his album hits #1 on the Billboard Top 100. The only time in Belly Up history (so far) that this has happened.
August 12, 2007
May 26, 2008
Foxburo Hot Tubs a.k.a Green Day
Foxburo Hot Tubs a.k.a Green Day

In 2007 Green Day formed a garage rock side project and named it the Foxburo Hot Tubs and on May 26, 2008 they rock the Belly Up Tavern. The band includes all members of Green Day as well as their touring members Jason White, Jason Freese, and Kevin Preston, who is also in Prima Donna.


New Logo, Name Gets Shortened
New Logo, Name Gets Shortened

The Belly Up Tavern shortens its name to Belly Up and unveils a new logo.

April 9, 2009
Tom Jones
Tom Jones

Tom Jones performs at the Belly Up

September 20, 2009
November 22, 2009
B B King
B B King

B B King and his legendary guitar,Lucille, perform the blues for the first of many times at the Belly Up.

June 6, 2010
July 25, 2010
Stick Figure performs at Belly Up
Stick Figure performs at Belly Up

Stick figure performs as support for The Black Seeds. This is the first time Stick Figure plays at the Belly Up.  This summer, Stick Figure is being presented by Belly Up/Goldenvoice for two SOLD OUT nights at Rady Band Shell having sold 17,000 tickets.

April 26, 2011
Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino (actor Danny Glover) performs at the Belly Up.



October 21, 2011
Royal Visit!
Royal Visit!

British royalty visits the Belly Up when Prince Harry takes in a show – Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. To note: Karl Denson is now part of one of England’s biggest bands, The Rolling Stones

February 15, 2012
Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff performs at the Belly Up and Willie Nelson’s son Lukas opens for him. Lukas also recently headlined a show at The Sound.

July 12, 2012
Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson performs at the Belly Up


Belly Up creates a live album online download store. The website BellyUpLive.com sold digital MP3s of live shows for over 11 years. Live shows included Mathew Sweet, Bushwalla, Rusted Root, Vokab Company, Donavon Frankenreiter, Big Mountain, Pato Banton, Bebel Gilberto and many, many more
Today, you can listen to these shows on Spotify and our YouTube Channel

KPBS Live at the Belly Up
Emmy-winning “Live at the Belly Up.” airs live annually on KPBS. Click here to experience these great live concerts.


July 30, 2013
The Dude Abides
Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges performs on our stage rug, they really tied the room together.

October 17, 2013
Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band
Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band

Jimmy Buffett performs at the Belly Up and Parrot Heads rejoice. Jimmy Buffett returns for two more concerts including a special benefit for people who worked the front lines during COVID in 2021

January 19, 2014
Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg

“You’ve got to always go back in time if you want to move forward.” Snoop Dogg

January 8, 2015
Foo Fighters, Aloe Blacc, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett
Foo Fighters, Aloe Blacc, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett

Foo Fighters, Aloe Blacc, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett perform at a private party for William Morris Endeavor at the Belly up Tavern.


May 27, 2015
Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones perform a secret show at the Belly Up Tavern. The show was a private event benefit to raise money for immunotherapy cancer research.

January 7, 2016
The Killers
The Killers perform a free midnight show, announced at 9:00PM that night, for the 600 lucky fans who got there first


May 12, 2018
Ben Harper
Ben Harper
Ben Harper performs a club-record 4 consecutive nights with blues legend Charlie Musselwhite, celebrating the Grammy win for their album Get Up!, which was co-produced by Belly Up president Chris Goldsmith.
March 13, 2019

During the COVID shutdown the Belly Up livestreams music world-wide to help ease the angst felt by live music deprived fans. Check out Los Lobos “Still Home for Christmas Tour” livestreamed from the Belly Up.

July 7, 2021
Belly Up gets her “Tavern” back
Belly Up gets her “Tavern” back

TAVERN restaurant opens.


The Wild Note Cafe closes during COVID but rises again with a new name (Tavern), a new menu, and a remodeled interior designed by Georgia Goldberg, which includes walls covered with past Belly Up concert posters and a large chandelier–which explodes with plates, cups, forks, pots, a parrot and squirrel. Fill your belly up at the Tavern!  Click here to check out what is on the menu.


Tavern Chandelier

December 14, 2023
Belly Laughs at the Belly Up

No one seems to be able to remember when the first comedy act came to the Belly Up, perhaps it was when the club’s first bartender told a joke. “A dog walks into a bar… (laughter goes here). Today, the Belly Up hosts some of the funniest acts in the galaxy like Zoltan Kaszas who filmed his show on December 14, 2023.


July, 25 2023
Bad To The Bone
George Thorogood

George Thorogood rocks the Belly Up. Photo by: Jason McClain

June 20, 2024
Third World’s Surprise Ending!

Third World performs an opera aria at the end of their concert. A unique and awesome way to end what was already an amazing concert.


Summer 2024
Belly Up Celebrates 50 Years!
Belly Up Celebrates 50 Years!

Belly Up celebrates 50 years of great live performances all summer long! Click here to check out who is playing.