Till O&O!

October 26, 2017
Reception & Ceremony
The US Grant
Tickets Available Now!

Interior Design

The Rail

The interior design for the renovation of the The Rail (formerly The Brass Rail) springs from its history as the oldest LGBT bar and nightclub in San Diego. The Rail originally opened in downtown San Diego’s post-Prohibition 1930s downtown, and then relocated to its current location in an Art Deco-inspired building in Hillcrest in 1973, where it has remained an icon for the community ever since.

Honoring both the bar’s and the building’s history, the new design is a celebration of the post-Prohibition era and the freedom and revelry that time embodied. Simultaneously, the design offers a modern version of post-Prohibition spirits, craft beer, and a new daytime brunch/lunch/dinner environment. Now, The Rail functions both as a nightlife center and daytime social experience.

  • The exterior architecture remains the same, but new paint, LED lighting, and new signage emphasize the building’s Art Deco references while new oversized bi-fold doors and windows open up the interior space to the outside front patio to embrace San Diego’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle.
  • Inside, the previous 8-foot drop ceiling was removed to expose 16-foot-high beams, revealing the building’s historic bones. The newly exposed raw douglas fir rafters solidified the new color palette with warm rich tones and bold pops of color. This volume opens up space to include a series of custom light fixtures, as well. Throughout, brick, wood, and a number of custom fabricated items create an atmosphere that encourages the comfortable camaraderie of days gone by, but in a modern context.
  • Above the updated bar hangs the new centerpiece: a 41-foot custom steel overhead liquor rack that acts as much as a spirits display as it does storage. The pipe shelving inside the new custom brick-backed back bar acts as further storage while drawing your eye to the new raised ceiling height with a large black arched valance and high gloss trim topped with a LED-backlit pierced brass screen. A 6-foot brass beer tap system anchors the wall.
  • Throughout the space, a series of new VIP areas with custom seating and custom steel banquet tables offer additional exclusive seating. The front VIP area, with it custom steel rod screens that showcase a simple Deco-inspired pattern, acts as an elevated place for both dining and dancing. Wrapping the walls throughout is a custom hand-patina’d painted corrugated metal wainscot.
  • To create a stronger sense of privacy, two custom peek-a-boo graphics screens allow VIP egress and restroom access while separating the restroom entrances from the dance floor. At the rear of the space, the renovated VIP area features brick and shiplap wrapped walls and ceiling with an arched steel strapped barrel edged valance, designed to feel as if walking into a giant whiskey barrel.

For longtime club-goers and new brunch patrons alike, every detail of The Rail’s new design celebrates the iconic institution’s historied past just as much as its promising future.

  • Orchid Nominee

  • Project Address:

    3796 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

    Project Owner/Developer:

    Gayle Santillan

    Owner Contact Name/Email:

    Gayle Santillan / csatm@aol.com

    Project Architect/Designer:

    Bailey Bishop Design


Contact Us

Contact Us



P.O. Box 122228
San Diego, CA 92112-2228
Federal Tax ID: 95-3513927

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Orchids & Onions is an educational and fundraising program of the San Diego Architectural Foundation, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization dedicated to education and the promotion of outstanding architecture, planning and urban design throughout the San Diego region.

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