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Edinburgh Castle Is in Trouble Because Techies Don’t Drink Enough

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It looks like the famed Edinburgh Castle Pub could become the next culture casualty in San Francisco’s unrelenting development game. The dive bar, which has been around since 1959, recently showed up on real estate listings for a cool $3,995,000 (Does the $5k discount make it feel any less like $4 million?) but the real kicker is in the small print:

“…zoned for development up to 80 feet in height.”

The Edinburgh Castle Pub at 950 Geary Street in San Francisco, Calif. Photo courtesy of Eater SF

The existing building at 950 Geary St. is worlds away from the grandeur of the castle in Scotland that shares its name – there are no guided tours or tales of wars and royalty, with the exception of the occasional SantaCon crowd duel and some fine, crownless queens. The place is not much to look at from the outside with its grey painted exterior dwarfed between two taller buildings, but the magic is on the inside where the cheap booze and strange, egg-stuffed grub fuels up crowds for feisty trivia, comedy and DJ sets.

Places like this exist not despite, but because they sometimes smell like urine. A dive bar is a treasure because it feels like a home, where you can get a little trashy and not be judged and for generations, places like the Edinburgh Castle Pub have thrived because the people of San Francisco craved the depravity. Dives provide an escape from high pressure and pretentiousness and, until recently, it was exactly the kind of respite hamster-wheel city dwellers needed.

The current owner Tay Kim told SF Weekly that some pesky health issues are preventing him from working as much as he would like to, but he also shared that business is slowing down and lays quite a bit of the blame for the shift on our favorite bogeyman: the techies.

Kim speaks lovingly of the old days with band-watching, booze-loving locals that would flock to spots like the Castle, but today’s clientele doesn’t seem interested in the old ways. In other words, they’re lame. “The recent ‘tech’ transplants are not drinkers or social,” Kim said.

Taps at Edinburgh Castle Pub at 950 Geary Street in San Francisco, Calif. Photo courtesy of Thrillist

The Castle, like most dives, is the kind of place that’s not only allowed, but expected to be imperfect – it’s those flaws that add charm and keep people coming back for the companionship, a little abuse and a hefty hangover.

One Yelper’s review summed it up pretty well:

“Rob says ‘Check your expectations at the door and best to stick to beer.’
Came here for SantaCon and we had a great time.  Looked like a dive bar, smelled like a dive bar, sounded like k-pop. I’d go back.”

It may be that some super savior comes along and buys the place to preserve the grimy and awesome landmark, but the risk of losing it forever is real with a “zoned for development” option on the table. If you don’t want to see yet another great dive edged out of its rightful place, talk to some of your techie friends and kindly let them know they really need to step up their drinking and debauchery game, because they’re failing and our favorite joints are failing because of them.


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.


  1. April 20, 2020 at 11:05 am

    You think the Edinburgh would get some techie spillover from the O’Farrell Theater!

  2. NoeValleyJim
    April 20, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Techies don’t drink? Could have fooled me!

  3. Arrrrrrr
    April 20, 2020 at 11:05 am

    The Castle is in trouble because the owners are super–cheapskates who have not made any meaningful effort to maintain the bar in something like 20 years. It is incredibly filthy, half of the minimal beer selection is out at any given moment, and the food options are terrible. Unfortunately it has gotten so bad that it would take probably $500k to get it into decent shape. If they had to make it ADA compliant it would be at least doubled. It is so far gone that bringing it to a reasonable condition is prohibitively expensive. The only things going for it are relatively cheap beer and the Castle Quiz