Closing of a venue

S.F.’s Saddest Closures of 2019

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2019 was known for a lot of disappointments, from the Mueller Report to Days of Our Lives firing its cast en masse, but in San Francisco, a lot of beloved places closed. 

There are stirrings of hope, such as how The Punch Line got saved to the return of Blowfish Sushi in the Mission to the predicted resurrections of North Beach Italian classic Tosca and Chinatown legend Empress of China (which closed in 2014 and which the Hakkasan team will reopen as Empress of Boon next year). Bernal Heights’ wonderful butcher Avedano’s Holly Park Market also managed to survive owing to an anonymous rent-paying savior.

But closures were plenty — no more so than in the Castro, where mid-range mainstay Chow threw in the towel, succeeded by the sordid and short-lived Cook Shoppe. Although Fable temporarily closed and reopened after a two-month seismic retrofit, many people seemed to assume it was gone forever just because that’s the way of things in that neighborhood. Oakland lost Plum Cocktail Bar and Specialty Foods, the East Bay’s longest-running African market. And The 3300 Club, a fantastic dive on 29th and Mission that closed after a 2016 fire, announced that it was never coming back.

So, with some sadness, we present S.F.’s most notable closures of 2019. Did we miss something that you really miss? Let us know. And always remember: The worst thing you can do to the treasures in your neighborhood is to “love the idea” of them. You need to love them for real!

First alphabetically, first in our hearts. We will miss brunch at this Dogpatch Hawaiian wonder.

Aardvark Books
The Castro’s implosion engulfed this independent bookstore in January. Whatever happened to the sign?

Ali Baba’s Cave
Syrian immigrant Husein Dawah served falafel and shawarma for 36 years at 19th and Valencia, but times changed. “I love you all!” he wrote on a sign in the window.

AMC Van Ness
One fewer multiplex to see the latest reboot.

Arlequin Cafe
The Absinthe Group is determined to replace this 18-year-old Hayes Valley wine spot with something.

Another Michelin-starred block of the once-mighty Daniel Patterson empire crumbled mere weeks after Chef Bretty Cooper decamped for L.A.

Hotel restaurants are tough, and Melissa Perfit’s seafood-and-pasta spot in Union Square’s Hotel G hung on for only a year.

Behind the scenes at Beach Blanket, BAS interview with star Curt Branom in 2016.

Beach Blanket Babylon
The final performance of Steve Silver’s 45-year musical revue (and way-station for the career of hundreds of Bay Area stage performers) will be Dec. 31. Hopefully, some of those spectacular headpieces find homes in museums.

Belcampo Meat Co. Russian Hill
If you haven’t eaten outside at the Jack London Square location, you’re really missing out.

Back of the House took this beery, Belgian spot and turned it into the plant-based Wildseed.

The Board
Adam Mesnick’s Deli Board spinoff on Mission Street waved goodbye this year, and it’s now Square Pie Guys. Sandwich pro Mesnick has long had gripes about the neighborhood, but he still seems very committed.

Burger King
Was the Seventh-and-Market location the nastiest fast-food restaurant in all of San Francisco? Quite possibly.

Chef Jason Fox closed this superb, Michelin-starred classic after a 10-year run on Mission and 18th streets. It’s now home to a reimagined Prubechu.

Two of its downtown locations are gone; read into the tea leaves what you will.

S.F.’s only bar for trans women — as opposed to a drag club — had to end its reign in the Tendernob on none other than March 31, the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Elite Cafe
After a truly valiant effort to stay fresh, this Fillmore pillar of New Orleans style called it quits after almost 40 years.

Green Chile Kitchen
Hatch chilies are having a rough go in their native Land of Enchantment, and the September closure of NoPa’s staple of New Mexico cooking likewise leaves a hole in our hearts.

Hooker’s Sweet Treats
David Williams cited the Tenderloin’s well-known social ills as the main reason why this perpetually wonderful confectionery wound down its nine-year run.

Isla Vida
This inventive Caribbean fast-casual spot was my favorite opening of 2018, hands down. An offshoot of the also-departed farmerbrown, its inability to attract sufficient foot traffic in the Fillmore was heartbreaking indeed.

Izakaya Sushi Ran
And of all the Castro closures, this one hurts. First, this ambitious Okinawan restaurant was falsely accused of being anti-homeless because of cultural misunderstanding over a rainbow-painted rock. Second, 2223 Market St. is a cursed space, home to at least half a dozen things in 10 years. They really tried, though. Restaurateurs: The Castro is a party neighborhood. Going high-concept is a bad bet!

Traci des Jardins’ 22-year-old Hayes Valley institution wound down on April 27, a stunning reminder of how much that neighborhood and fine dining itself have adapted.

Jay-Bee Club
Mission dives east of Harrison Street all seem to operate in stealth, but this one really had everything going for it: good vibes, cheap drinks, and awesome pizza.

Nigel Jones’ partnership with Daniel Patterson dissolved after only 16 months, thwarting this attempt to revive Mid-Market’s Alta CA. It was a bad year for Caribbean food.

Lucca Ravioli
The biggest tearjerker of them all, and an exercise in collective mourning. But can you really blame a family for cashing out after 94 years?

Interventions by Sup. Matt Haney and the entire world of nightlife notwithstanding, this SoMa club’s time has run out. A New Year’s Eve performance by Dirtybird’s Claude VonStroke is probably the most appropriate ending, though.

Mission Beach Cafe
Misappropriated funds, bankruptcies, expired business licenses, vermin. Read the entire story of the decline of this once-beloved restaurant, which sounds as if Donald Trump Jr. was running it.

Mr. Smith’s
A bottle-service-type club with a divey feel on the ground floor, Mr. Smith’s sputtered out after owner Max Young couldn’t take the property crime and drug dealing on Seventh Street.

The Perennial
Practically the last holdout of the super-sized Mid-Market openings, Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz’s hyper-sustainable project lasted a respectable three years. That Twitter tax break may have been City Hall’s biggest legislative flop of the decade.

Our low-income or unhoused neighbors (and anyone green-minded) had 284 fewer places to redeem bottles and cans across the Bay Area when this company closed every location in August, laying off 700 people.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill (Haight Street)
We’re waiting for Berliner Berliner, another sausage-y project from a former Rosamunde employee, to reopen in this Toronado-adjacent spot in the Lower Haight. In the meanwhile, there are still two more!

Southpaw BBQ
Another disappearance on Mission Street after practically a decade, this time Southern food from Elizabeth Wells.

Stones Throw
At least low-key Italian classic Seven Hills took over from this five-year-old Russian Hill gem from the Hi-Neighbor Group.

Tacos Club
The Castro is home to a few mediocre Mexican places, so why did the best one have to close?

Udon Time
Probably the only mis-step the Omakase Group has made. Marugame Udon was better, even though it’s in Stonestown.

The clothes weren’t actually union-made, which always bothered us. But both Castro locations are gone, one of which still has a splashy mural of Juanita MORE!


Whiskey Thieves in San Francisco, Calif. will close Jan. 31, 2019 after 15 years. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Bar Experiment

This Geary Street dive bar shuttered in January after 15 years, but Thieves Tavern and Blind Cat live on!

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Peter-Astrid Kane

Peter-Astrid Kane

Peter-Astrid Kane (they/them) is the Communications Manager for San Francisco Pride and a former editor of SF Weekly.

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