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Reviving History, Oakland’s Historic Smitty’s Cocktails is Rescued

Updated: Jan 26, 2024 12:39
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Editor’s Note: Smitty’s Cocktails is officially re-opening after a hiatus of over 3-years. After some delays, it’s finally all happening! Opening night is January 26th at 8pm. There will also be a large Grand Re-Opening Party later – date for that TBD. 

Smitty’s Cocktails, one of Oakland’s oldest dive bars, has remained closed and abandoned since the COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020. However, a pair of seasoned bar owners have come forward to rescue the bar, located at 3339 Grand Avenue. Future co-owner, Shari Murphy, spilled the beans to me a few weeks ago when I was interviewing her for a different story about Women Bar Owners in Oakland.

Historic Smitty’s Cocktails opened in the 40s – photo from Visit Oakland

So, who will be the partner in this endeavor with Murphy? None other than JJ Jenkins who is Baggy’s other owner along with Murphy as well as owns Oakland’s second oldest bar, Merchants in Jack London Square (which opened in 1916).

It’s almost as if this dynamic duo has been scooping up Oakland’s best dive bars, having retained ownership of Baggy’s back in 2021. The movement to preserve Oakland’s rich history is one of the duo’s main motivations.

“There’s definitely a motivation to preserve some of the history of Oakland. It’s a neat slice of, I don’t want to say the darker side of Oakland, but the more fun side, ” Jenkins told The Chronicle earlier this week.

What’s so special about preserving dive bars?

I know I’m preaching to the choir here but dive bars are the ultimate melting pot in any city. You’ll find lots of regulars and people from the neighborhood there as well as friends meeting for a drink after work or those who come to the dive just for access to a decent pool table.

“More than ever it is important to have places that welcome everyone and folks of all backgrounds, professions, races, and genders ACTUALLY TALK TO EACH OTHER. IN PERSON! When everyone in a room has a positive vibe it’s real Oakland magic,” says Shari in our recent interview.

Shari Murphy of Baggy’s  – photo by Vita Hewitt

When will Smitty’s Officially Reopen?

Murphy tells us they expect to open sometime next year. What’s the hold up? Well, besides the layers of dust left accumulating for the past 3+ years, some normal everyday city paperwork is still being sorted.

How can you support Smitty’s Cocktails until it reopens?

While we anxiously await the joyous reopening of Smitty’s, do support Merchants and Baggy’s, of course! And go follow Smitty’s Cocktail Lounge on Instagram while you wait, too. They just recently started their account and we can keep tabs on it for any vital Smitty’s news.

Smitty’s Cocktails:

3339 Grand Ave., Oakland
IG: @smittysloungeoakland

Merchant’s Saloon

401 2nd St, Oakland
IG: @poisoningoakland
Fun Merchant’s Fact: Did you know Merchant’s used to be an Italian Restaurant?

Baggy’s by The Lake

288 E 18th St, Oakland
IG: @baggysbythelake
Fun Baggy’s Fact: Baggy’s is haunted! it’s true. That’s a funny story for another day.

Note: Baggy’s does have an art opening coming up in June featuring yours truly and 3 other amazing local artists. The art opening will be Monday, June 12th. I’m super excited to be part of this sweet little event coming soon.

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy has lived in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.