Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Line'em Up for the Last Round in San Francisco

Line‘em Up for the Last Round in San Francisco

86 bars are closing in San Francisco. 86 classic bars and dives; 86 purveyors of alcohol. We are supposed to mourn the cultural loss of San Francisco. It’s made national news.


Why are we sad about the closing of drinking establishments that contribute to alcoholism, heart and circulatory problems, cirrhosis of the liver, drunk driving, fetal alcohol syndrome, corruption, fights, public urination, and sexual assaults?

Why do we go to bars in the first instance? How many of these reasons are socially redeeming? And how many apply to us?

Peer pressure;


To be seen at the new “in place”

To pick up; to seduce; to be seduced (not to be confused with romance)

To celebrate

To escape; to drown our sorrows

To escape;

To escape from reality

To get drunk

To find courage;

To watch athletic events on TV with our friends or on the road

To relax, to relieve stress

To cool one’s heels

To soothe one’s nerves

To relieve stress and rapid emotional ups and downs (Check out trial lawyers and bars next to the courthouse)

To take a break between meetings

To be with one’s kind (ethnicity, gender, LGBT)

To stand by my man, woman

To relive our youthful memories (Memories! We could always tell our parents that we were going to the library since the “Old Library” was a popular bar on Clement Street, with quite a few more in just a three block radius.)

The singing bartender

The food (restaurants make most of their profit off beverages)

You can’t drink on an empty stomach, but you shouldn’t eat on a dry throat.

To carve initials and post graffiti

To drink around the world without leaving home

To meet up

To play pool, pinball, video games

The jukebox

The ambience

The motif (Robin Williams’ recently deceased brother, Robert Todd Williams, once had a delightful bar in the Marina called Toads. Toads was overwhelmed with a collection of fake toads.)

To seek counseling from that great amateur psychotherapist - the bar tender

As I checked the list of closing bars, I was looking for the well known classic establishments, but more so the dives which did not check our ID’s as under aged college students in the mid’60’s. Where is the classic K Club, the lovely Laurel Lodge, the aptly named Dirty Bird and the others whose names have become a fog over the years?

I had a high school teacher who said either (I can’t totally remember because that too is a fog) that San Francisco had one bar per block or one bar per thousand residents. Either way that is a lot of beer and booze.

The explanation though is not that San Franciscans were drunks in the ‘60’s, but that the tourists consumed gallons of booze in the tourist areas. And yet the neighborhoods, the Castro, the Excelsior, the Fillmore, the Haight, the Marina, the Mission, the Potrero, the Richmond, the Sunset, China Town, Hunters Point, Nob Hill, Noe Valley, North Beach, South of the Slot (South of Market) have more than their share of bars.

Even now, San Francisco will have more than its share of drinking establishments based on the number of liquor licenses. The closing bars will simply transfer their licenses to other establishments.

The reasons for the closures parallel those of small businesses closing throughout America: retirements and death of proprietors, rent increases, loss of leases, sale of the property to capture substantial rise in real estate values, rising costs and declining business.

I do not mourn the loss of bars in San Francisco. However, if the BVC (the home of the Irish Coffee) were to close, then that will be a national catastrophe.

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