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Legendary Lucky 13 Sign Now Lives at Bender’s

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San Francisco’s legendary Lucky 13 might be closed forever, but its famous sign now lives on in infamy at Bender’s.

I was at Bender’s on Wednesday night for Richie Cunning‘s Noise Pop show and looked up to see that snarling cat surveying the festivities. I can’t think of a better place for that immaculate shingle to hang.

After many years and many announcements Lucky 13 finally shut down in December 2020 to make way for 27 condos. It was a heartbreaker for dive bar enthusiasts in the Bay Area and around the world. But just because it’s gone, doesn’t mean it’s forgotten.

Over its nearly 20 years of existence, Bender’s has become a bit of a museum for San Francisco businesses of yore. The walls of this excellent dive bar are festooned with dozens of signs from deeply loved SF places that have closed down. There’s Leather Tongue Video, the video store that was full of strange and hard to find movies. There’s the Lusty Lady, which was the only co-op strip club in America. There’s Sacrifice, the bar that occupied the space before Bender’s moved in. And so many more.

Bender’s even serves food from a restaurant that no longer exists; the folks who ran CatHead’s BBQ are now in charge of the kitchen inside the bar.

And now the Lucky 13 sign has been added to these hallowed walls.

When I talked to Johnny Davis, one of Bender’s owners, about the addition of the sign to his collection, he told me, “It’s sad. We’ve gotten a bunch of new stuff since the start of the pandemic. In fact, we had so many things offered to us that we had to turn some down.”

Luckily Bender’s has survived the pandemic so far and is still around to act as San Francisco’s memory lane. And you can help them do that. Go down there, have a few drinks and a bite to eat, and you’ll be supporting both the San Francisco of today and its many strange and lovely histories.

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Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

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