Established in 1933
Chaffee Grant and Clair Blakley opened the Waterfront, shortly after the prohibition was repealed with a new custom bar, a few bar stools, a juke box, slot and pin-ball machines and some food snacks on the bar. They hired friends to tend bar and eventually Clair Blakley’s wife, Glady, opened a kitchen and started a small lunch business. The business took off and it became clear that they needed a full time bartender.
Clair Blakley’s brother-in-law, Clayton Schilling, was having financial difficulties due to the depression. He was working as a bellhop at the Padre Hotel in Bakersfield, California. Schilling moved to San Diego and began working as a full time bartender and the business just kept going. Because of Chaffee Grant’s family background, he had always been a silent partner. Eventually, Clair Blakley’s employer, Associated Oil Co., preferred that he not be associated with the liquor business. Chaffee Grant sold his half interest to Schilling. Clair Blakley signed over his ownership to his wife. Mrs. Blakley continued to manage the kitchen and soon hired a full cook. They also hired another bartender.
The clientele of the Waterfront was local. They were “colorful characters.” It was always the fishermen, Oil Co. employees, and workers from all surrounding businesses. It was rumored that Wyatt Earp, who had businesses in San Diego was an early customer. Also, the Western author Stewart Lake and author Max Miller who wrote and later became a movie “I Cover the Waterfront.” The characters for “I Cover the Waterfront” were fictionalized customers of the Waterfront.
One interesting group that frequented the Waterfront was lawyers and judges from downtown San Diego. It was a good place to indulge in their favorite beverages and not be seen by clients. Drinking was still unacceptable in some social circles of society.
Clayton Schilling came to own the bar and later sold it to Melvin Miller, sometime in the late 60's early 70's. Melvin Millers daughter Nancy Nichols bought into the bar and later became the sole owner in the early 80's. Nancy Nichols still owns The Waterfront today. With the help of her two grandsons, Chad Cline and Jason Nichols, she hopes to continue serving San Diegans for years and generations to come.