An iconic restaurant and bar near Lake Henshaw where motorcycle enthusiasts from all over Southern California gathered for decades for camaraderie, food and drinks has reopened to the delight of the biker community.
Josie’s Hideout Saloon, formerly known as The Hideout, already is attracting scores of motorcycle riders, as well as locals happy to have a restaurant and bar available in a part of the county where such businesses are pretty rare.
“This has been a motorcycle destination for many years,” said Don Ammon, a limited partner in the business that is owned primarily by Mike Haaland of Rancho Bernardo, who is Ammon’s son-in-law.
The business is just off Highway 76 south of Lake Henshaw near where the highway intersects with Highway 79 south of Warner Springs and north of Santa Ysabel. Its location is pretty much central for motorcyclists out for leisurely looping rides in the north backcountry.
The old Hideout closed several years ago, but unofficially reopened a few weeks ago. It’s been completely renovated. On a recent afternoon, dozens of bikes were parked out front and the place was hopping.
Keith and Jody Carnevale of Ramona were visiting for the second time. They were out for a drive on their three-wheeler Harley and stopped in for a beer and lunch.
“We’ve been waiting for it to open for a year,” said Jody.
“The first time a bunch of us were on a ride and we came in,” said Keith. “It was phenomenal. Great service, great food, cold beer. It’s a nice break point and the ambiance is pretty damn cool. We’ll probably come here every time we drive through.”
Josie’s Hideout is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Ammon said. Already local farm workers and cowboys come in for breakfast. The busiest time is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. because most bikers touring the backcountry want to be heading home before dark.
The ambiance is apparently quite different than when it was just the Hideout.
“It’s a lot nicer now,” said Petrina Shelby, who was visiting with friend Steve Crouch. “It was a falling-apart dive bar. Don’t get me wrong. It was actually fun for bikers. We like dive bars. But it was kind of a scary dive bar.”
“It was a divey dive bar,” Crouch said.
Shelby is married to New York Myke Shelby, a one-time candidate for San Diego mayor. Together, they own San Diego Harley Davidson. She and Crouch and another friend were visiting Josie’s Hideout Saloon in part to give the business a framed, blown-up photograph of a former Hideout bartender, Sadie Stockalper. Beloved by customers, Stockalper was murdered in 2015, along with her mother, inside their Warner Springs home by an estranged boyfriend who then killed himself.
The Hideout closed a short time later. Ammon said a memorial for Stockalper and her mother, Felice Howard-Vinnard, will be held later this year.
“I came up here all the time when it was the old Hideout,” Crouch said. “They were only open on Saturdays and Sundays and they’d close if it was raining. We came up here for these (he said pointing to the photo of Stockalper and her mom) because they’d make you feel like a million bucks. They’d make you feel like you were the only one in the house.”
Crouch and Shelby agreed the business is perfectly located.
“It’s an hour and half from Orange County and an hour and half from San Diego,” Crouch said. “It’s a perfect day ride to come out here, have a burger, then head back.”
Ammon said the place caters to all types of motorcyclists, including those who ride sports bikes and like to race up Palomar Mountain on weekends. He said the business has established a grab & go area with pre-made sandwiches for those riders.
“They come in and grab something quick and just as quick as they came in, they’re back on their bikes and are gone,” he said.
The business has focused its recent advertising on motorcycle groups and dealerships, but will be expanding soon to jeep and car clubs. Next year, a large parking area will be built to accommodate bigger crowds and a two-acre picnic ground will be opened for events, Ammon said. The 40-acre property also includes 22 cabins, which are being renovated and will likely be available for rent in 2020, Ammon said.
“The Hideout was a biker bar,” he said. “Now our motto is the best ride/drive experience in the West.”
“We know that motorcycles are still going to be our base, but we’re opening it up to much more. We’re getting the word out to travelers and it’s working pretty well.”