Supporters of the Gold Dust Lounge hoping to save the popular bar from eviction gathered Friday night for a sing-a-long event in honor of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a longtime bar patron along with his friend and drinking buddy Herb Caen.
Singer-songwriter Catherine Hill performed her song, Save the Gold Dust Lounge, and an enthusiastic crowd took up its chorus: “Call Willie Brown, Tell him I’m a part of this town, Save the Gold Dust Lounge.”
The former mayor told stories of ending up at the Gold Dust Lounge after other bars had shut down for the night with Caen and local musicians.
“I really hope it can be saved,” Brown said of the bar. “The Gold Dust Lounge is part of San Francisco. When your relatives come to town, The Gold Dust Lounge is one of the places you want to take them.”
Landlord Jon Handlery has issued an eviction notice telling the bar to vacate by March 10, saying a new tenant wants the bar space at 247 Powell St. as well as the two-story retail space at 301 Geary St. next door. According to the San Francisco Business Times, this new tenant is specialty apparel and accessories retailer Express.
Patrons at the bar tonight, several of whom had been coming in for drinks for more than a decade, expressed optimism that it would remain open. They cited the bar’s old time interior, friendly atmosphere and cheap drinks — including a highly touted Irish coffee–as reasons for their support.
“I love the place, it’s like a second home,” said a patron named John, who said he had been coming for 15 years. “We are not going to give it up.”
The bar’s owners, James and Tasios Bovis, filed a lawsuit in late February with the help of noted attorney Joseph Cotchett alleging that Handlery misrepresented the terms of the lease they signed, which allows him to terminate with 90 days notice.
In addition, Hill and preservation historian Chris Ver Plank made a presentation before the city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Feb. 1 in the hopes of having the bar, the last remaining bar on Powell Street, named a historic landmark.
Supporters say previous incarnations of the bar date back to 1918, and that Bing Crosby was a part owner in the 1960s of a burlesque on the property called “Bustles and Beaus.” Famous past patrons of the bar include Caen, Brown, Tony Bennett, Janis Joplin, Rosemary Clooney, Fats Domino and former mayor George Moscone, among others.
Lee Houskeeper, a spokesman for the Bovis family, which has owned the Gold Dust Lounge since the 1950s, said that until now the landlord has refused to meet with the Bovises and their attorney. Now, however, he said that a meeting has been set up for Tuesday.
“I really hope we can sit down, have a cooling off period, negotiate,” Houskeeper said. “This is a cause that everybody seems to have embraced. I just hope there can be reason.”
However Sam Singer, a spokesman for Handlery, said that as far as he knows, nothing has changed and the Gold Dust Lounge is still set to be evicted on the 10th. He called the historic claims for the bar “dubious,” and has previously said that it lacks architectural significance.
“The best news for the Bovis family would be to have them honor the written conditions of their lease and vacate on March 10,” Singer said. “There’s been no change in the situation other than that we hope they honor their word.”
Sara Gaiser, Bay City News