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After Dark in San francisco

Compared to many US cities, where you need money and attitude in equal measure, San Francisco's nightlife scene demands little of either. It is not unusual for restaurants to provide live music, you can often eat & be entertained for no extra cost. This is no 24-hour city, and the approach to socializing is surprisingly low-key, with little of the pandering to fads that goes on in New York or LA.

After Dark in San francisco
One of the most proudly distinct places you can find.

For a nominal amount of money, you can get a decent night out, including cover charge and a few drinks. Always have your ID with you, otherwise you cannot get past the bouncers at all clubs and music venues. Though smoking is technically illegal in all bars and clubs, the law is routinely flouted by locals willing to risk a ticket.

The Sunday Chronicle 's "Pink Pages" supplement, along with the free weekly Bay Guardian or the San Francisco Weekly , are the best sources of listings . Ticketmaster (tel 415/421-8497, ) is the major ticket agency, with outlets in Tower Records and Rite Aid stores. (tel 415/478-2277, ) is also worth a try.

BARS IN San Francisco.

Since its lawless, boomtown days, San Francisco has been a drinking town. Even as the rest of California cleans up its act, San Franciscans continue to indulge; the city's bars vary from seedy late-night dives to rooftop piano lounges touting glittering views.

Below are a few examples of some bars worth a visit.


Phoenix Hotel , 601 Eddy St, Tenderloin tel 415/771-3547.
Fantastically retro bar adjacent to the hotel's pool patio. Black-vinyl-clad waitstaff, entirely blue decor and a menagerie of bizarre and lively patrons. To write home about.


1122 Folsom St, SoMa tel 415/861-FOOD.
Great idea - café/bar and laundromat where you can have breakfast and beer while you do your washing. Popular with the young and novelty-conscious.

Edinburgh Castle.

950 Geary St, Tenderloin tel 415/885-4074.
The best place in the city for British-style pints, fish and chips (still wrapped in newspaper) and a game of darts. The bar was prominently featured in the cult film, So I Married an Axe-Murderer .

Gordon Biersch Brewery

2 Harrison St, Embarcadero tel 415/243-8246.
Bayfront microbrewery in a converted coffee warehouse. Great selection of beers pulls in a downtown twenty-something crowd.

Harry Denton's Starlight Room.

Top floor, Sir Francis Drake Hotel , 450 Powell St, downtown tel 415/395-8595.
Join the dressed-up, grown-up, moneyed crowd and drink martinis to live-jazz accompaniment.

Occidental Grill.

56 Belden Place, downtown tel 415/834-0484.
Re-opened in a new location due to a fire, this Barbary Coast-style den is supposedly the birthplace of the martini, though that's open to more than some debate. However, they certainly do make a mean one. Their second business, the Occidental Cigar Club, is around the corner at 471 Pine St.

Red Room.

827 Sutter St, Tenderloin tel 415/346-7666.
Like the name implies, everything - including the walls, the furniture, the glasses and many of the drinks - is red in this popular faux-dive.

The Tonga Room.

Basement of the Fairmont , 950 Mason St, Nob Hill tel 415/772-5278.
A must for fans of the ludicrous or just the very drunk. It's decked out like a Polynesian village, complete with a pond and simulated rainstorms, and a grass-skirted band plays terrible jazz and pop covers from a raft in the middle of the water. Cover $3 after 8pm, outrageously priced cocktails, but worth every cent.


255 Columbus St, North Beach tel 415/362-3370.
Legendary Beat haunt in the 1950s, next to City Lights Bookstore. Still draws an arty, friendly crowd who prop up the bar into the small hours.

LIVE MUSIC IN San Francisco.

San Francisco's music scene reflects the character of the city: laid-back, eclectic and not a little nostalgic. The options for catching live music are wide and the scene is definitely on the up and up, with the city regularly spawning good young bands. Check the San Francisco Bay Guardian and SF Weekly free weeklies, and the San Francisco Chronicle , for listings.

Bimbo's 365 Club.

1025 Columbus Ave tel 415/474-0365.
Classy lounge with tableside drink service (2 minimum) and a varied high quality menu of music styles from jazz to ska.

Biscuits & Blues.

401 Mason St tel 415/292-2583.
Lively blues supper club with inexpensive Southern cuisine and hot blues acts nightly. Reservations recommended for dinner shows.

Blue Lamp.

561 Geary St tel 415/885-1464.
Quintessential dive close to downtown that features good acoustic acts (blues & jazz).

Bottom of the Hill.

1233 17th St tel 415/621-4455.
Potrero Hill hangout for rock & country music, live seven nights a week, drawing a late-twenty- to thirtysomething crowd. There's an outdoor all-you-can-eat barbecue on the patio Sun.


2389 Mission St tel 415/648-7701.
Swank jazz and swing bar/restaurant pulling the kind of attractive young things who are titillated to be in the Mission's seedy section


1710 Mission St tel 415/864-5575.
A sophisticated jazz and dining spot, with occasional poetry and performance art pieces. The food is very good (served till 1am), but come for the jazz.

Café du Nord.

2170 Market St tel 415/861-5016.
This popular bar is quite the place to experience live swing, jazz, Latin and blues over good food, or just have a beer and shoot some pool.

Elbo Room.

647 Valencia St tel 415/552-7788.
The birthplace of acid jazz, a smoothed out instrumental sound that provides upbeat background music for an intense pick-up scene.

Lou's Pier 47.

300 Jefferson St tel 415/771-0377.
An old favorite, and about the only decent place on the Wharf. Lou's blues pulls a good crowd most nights.

Paradise Lounge.

308 11th St tel 415/861-6906.
Good SoMa venue to see up-and-coming rock bands (usually three per night), or take a break for a game of pool upstairs.

The Saloon.

1232 Grant St tel 415/989-7666.
North Beach's best spot for R&B. Always packed, it creaks nightly as blues bands and crowds of enthusiastic dancers do their thing.

NIGHTCLUBS IN San Francisco.

While clubbing in San Francisco may not have the feverish following of other cities, the clubs that exist are encouragingly inexpensive, and you can leave your attitude at home.

With a population as young and hip as this city's, odds are it will be impossible to keep a good party down for long. The greatest concentration of clubs is in SoMa and, recently, the Mission . You must bring your ID to get in to all clubs; most require you to be at least 21 except for a few 18-and-over clubs.

Club Townsend.

177 Townsend St tel 415/974-1156.
Site of long-running gay and lesbian dance parties (Club Q for women, Club Universe and Pleasuredome for men) on the first Fri of every month, Sat and Sun respectively. Call their information line for the latest events.

DNA Lounge.

375 11th St tel 415/626-1409.
The music changes nightly, but the young hipsters are the same. Large dance floor downstairs, comfy sofas in the mezzanine.

El Rio.

3158 Mission St tel 415/282-3325.
Mixed crowds gather for changing nightly entertainment and some great giveaways, like oysters on the half-shell on a Friday. The popular live salsa on summer Sun afternoons draws a predominantly female crowd.


401 6th St at Harrison tel 415/357-0827.
Long after other places close, this is where everyone ends up. Certain nights attract gay or lesbian crowds like Girl Spot (Sat) and Fag (Fri). Good for the hardcore party animal - especially the all-day, all-night Sunday T-dance beginning at 5am.

Justice League.

628 Divisadero St tel 415/289-2038.
Hosting top-notch hip-hop and salsa acts, in addition to regular stints by adventurous DJs and poetry slams.

Sound Factory.

525 Harrison St tel 415/979-8686.
Huge multilevel 18-and-over place with three rooms for simultaneous house, hip-hop and Latin dance parties.


1015 Folsom tel 415/385-1015.
Another huge club for serious sweating: 6 rooms with different music in each, especially deep jungle house, and cool laser light shows. You may have to wait in a long line Thurs-Sat.

330 Ritch.

330 Ritch St tel 415/541-9574.
Low-ceilinged and crowded with slender SoMa types. Serves food until 10pm, then DJs spin funk, soul, disco and British pop music on different nights. Live jazz on Satuday and a live swing band and free swing lessons on Wednesday.

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