E Street Café in Encinitas closes without warning


E Street Café, known for its arts happenings and eclectic atmosphere, unexpectedly closed its doors last week after a decade in business.

A notice posted on the door stated the space, located in downtown Encinitas, will be converted into two separate offices for lease. And a sign on one of the windows read: “Thanks for the memories.”

George Gowland, who owns the Encinitas property, did not respond to requests to comment. Nor did Dominic Alcorn, the cafe’s owner.

Many associate the cafe with Bob Nanninga, a popular environmental activist, poet and Encinitas City Council candidate who died in 2009 of pneumonia.

Nanninga co-owned the café with partner Keith Shillington, who sold it not long after Nanninga’s passing.

“We had a great time running a coffee house for five years,” Shillington said the morning of June 24. “When he passed away, I was no longer interested in the coffee house business. It’s come to the point where the coffee house is gone with him.”

Shillington added: “It was a beautiful coffee house and a beautiful place.”

He also said it’s regrettable the café, which frequently hosted poetry readings and art showings, will be converted into office space.

“It’s a great space and someone who knows what they’re doing could make a great business there,” Shillington said. “I know — I did it for five years.”

Dody Crawford, executive director of Encinitas 101, a group whose mission includes preserving historical properties, said it’s a shame to see the café go. But it’s out of the hands of Encinitas 101, since it’s private property, Crawford noted.

The news came as a major disappointment to singer-songwriter Jason Matkin. He regularly performed there during open mics on Tuesday nights.

“E Street is a destination for so many musicians,” Matkin said. “It’s a really quirky spot that exemplifies the vibe of Encinitas.”

Matkin, who was selected last year as one of six songwriters for Carnegie Hall’s Music Exchange program, said he began writing original music thanks to the spot.

“When I was starting out, I was told I could perform, but covers weren’t allowed,” Matkin said. “So I wrote some originals.

“I met a lot of people there, including one of my best friends,” he added.