Why Isn’t San Francisco a 24 Hour City?
I’m not a well-traveled person. However, I have traveled a little, and one thing that I can’t help but notice when I’m out and about in America’s major cities that don’t sit beside the San Francisco Bay, is that all of them have a bevy of businesses that stay open past 2 AM.
Why don’t we?
I’m not just referring to places that serve alcohol. I’m fine with California’s 2 AM cutoff. I like drinking, but I understand that binge drinking all night isn’t necessarily a benefit to the community. I’m talking about bookstores, cafes, coffee shops, diners, movie theaters, and other places that promote late night socializing. San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley are severely lacking when it comes to shit to do after midnight.
I recently went to Las Vegas for work, and while I would never trade the beauty and brilliance of the Bay Area for the sandy soullessness of Las Vegas, there was something refreshing about being able to go to a third wave coffee shop at 3 AM. Not only was it open, people were in it doing coffee shop shit. All the regulars were there. I saw a dude on a MacBook Pro doing something that looked important. There was a plant that looked expensive next to a brick wall decorated with art by local artists. A barista with dyed hair and a septum piercing made my cappuccino look hella pretty. Underground hip hop was playing at a low volume from from a large boombox behind the counter.
San Francisco is more densely populated than both Portland and Vegas, yet we don’t nearly as many options after 8 PM.
I usually make jokes about these kinds of establishments because they try too hard and usually end up somewhere on an unflattering bell curve between trite and mediocre. But after a redeye flight to Las Vegas, that coffee shop was an absolute lifesaver.
Las Vegas isn’t alone. Back in 2010, me and my bestfriend decided to go to Portland. We didn’t really have a plan, but we had heard it was the place that “young people go to retire,” and we wanted to see for ourselves. We were both ambitionless kids who worked at a Round Table Pizza in the East Bay and had little to lose if we left it all behind. So, we decided that an impromptu visit to Portland was justified. When we got there, we didn’t really know what to do, but luckily for us, Downtown Portland was brightly lit and mostly open for business.
As I stated earlier, I’m not well-traveled. At that point in my life, I had only lived in the Bay Area beside a one year stint in Glendale. So when I was walking around Portland after midnight, seeing everything from bowling alleys to bike shops open was cool.
San Francisco is more densely populated than both Portland and Vegas, yet we don’t have nearly as many options after 8 PM. This is especially true if we don’t factor bars into the equation.
I would love to have a large bookstore that was open all night with comfy chairs and a section that served high quality coffee somewhere in or around San Francisco. Wouldn’t it be cool to go bowling with a friend at 4 AM? San Francisco is tolerant of everyone except insomniacs.
We’re a big city, but we sleep like a suburb.