“I took over the operation in 1959 or 60,” Bobby Lutes recalls. After he’d owned it for five years, he bought a neighboring store, The Toggery, from the late State Senator Harold Giss. The Casino doubled in size. “I started collecting the wall stuff in about 1960,” he recalls. “People bring me stuff for the walls, but I collect the posters myself. The foot through the ceiling was also my idea.” He also had the wall of coin-operated games installed. Today, Lutes Casino is booming. It has become the place to go on a Saturday afternoon or after a show. People dressed to the teeth can be seen mingling with pool-shooting cowboys, ordering the famous “Special” or “Especial,” a combination cheeseburger and hotdog covered with hot sauce. “Martin and I thought up the Special,” Lutes says. “Martin Pelayo has been here since my father ran it.”
Although the place has many employees, pelayo pretty much runs the Casino from behind the two-counter bar. Never a motion is wasted as he fills orders for food and drink at a hectic pace. Politicians, dignitaries, celebrities, and artists have paid visits to the Casino. In recent times, members of the San Diego Padres baseball team, including the famed “Goose” Gossage, have frequented the place for a beer and a game of pool. The establishment had been used for birthday parties, re-unions, and even a wedding reception, but the only gambling that goes on now is the sale of state lottery tickets. One additional curiosity is the window in the men’s room door. “That’s so nobody can sneak up and shoot you,” Lutes explains, tongue firmly planted in cheek.