Pinball Party Time

New Legislation Means More Arcade Games For San Francisco

Working to shed the title of San Francisco’s Top Buzzkill, Supervisor Scott Wiener has taken a moment out of his normally busy schedule outlawing public nudity and crusading to restrict the public’s use of city parks to remind us that, hey kids!, he’s still hip to the needs/passions of the youth vote.

I refer, of course, to the legislation he co-sponsored with Supervisor London Breed, which the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve today, modifying restrictions on pinball machines and arcade games inside city businesses. The San Francisco Chronicle did us the favor of explaining the clearly onerous existing regulations, which were passed way back in 1982 when the questionable morals of Mrs. Pacman seemed a very real threat:

The law currently requires a business to secure a city permit to have any arcade game on its premises; it also prohibits the games within 300 feet of a public playground or school or within 1,500 feet of another business with arcade games, and in any neighborhood zoned for residential use; and limits the number depending on square footage of a business, with a maximum of 10.

Well pop the champagne and take a hammer to your piggy bank, because under the new law bars can have four machines and non-bars can have up to ten without securing a permit.

Shit just got real.

Of course, lest shit get too real, the revised regulations on “mechanical amusement devices” do not completely roll back restrictions. Rather, Supervisors Wiener and Breed have made it easier for establishments to carry a limited quantity of arcade machines without going through the Entertainment Commission. For previously illegal arcades such as Free Gold Watch, this paves a pathway towards legitimacy that wasn’t previously available.

So the next time you’re cited for having the audacity to be in Dolores Park past what Supervisor Wiener considers to be an acceptable hour, just remember, Wiener has your best interests at heart.

Jack Spade Anyone?

Clothes Contact on the Chopping Block

I guess this isn’t much of a surprise: Valencia Street’s stalwart by-the-pound used clothing store is closing this fall. According to a Craigslist listing for the space, the $14,000-per-month ground floor retail space is available in two months:

Great Frontage on Valencia and 16th. Nice three story building with great potential. Space will vacate approx 60 days… Possible to double space with full basement.

Sources tell Uptown Almanac was the place to buy bulk Hawaiian shirts (ironically, we’re assurded). Looks like we’ll have to score our used grabs at Thirft Town, Community Thrift, and Buffalo Exchange going forward.

[via Larissa Archer, Mission Mission]

The Lunch Beat

Pal's Takeaway is Bringing Their Sandwiches Back to Tony's Market

Pal’s Takeaway has always been one of the few spots that can get away with charging $12 sandwich. The price is extravagant, sure, but the unmatched quality always made up for it.  However, when Pal’s left Tony’s Market for a wine bar down the street, it always felt like something was lacking (the addition of the restaurant’s tables were nice, I guess. But it always feels more appropriate to order a sandwich from a liquor store deli counter).

It wasn’t just the vibe that changed after the move. Pal’s Jeff Mason noticed customers weren’t coming in for sandwiches as often either. So he’s moving Pal’s back to the deli counter where he made a name for himself. Via SF Eater:

While he enjoyed having the space at La Movida, he feels that his core customer base, the hospital workers at SF General, haven’t been making the trek farther to 24th and Folsom to have lunch at Pal’s. He’d remained friends with Tony’s owner Kasa Meherle, and when Meherle expressed a desire to have Mason back, he decided to return Pal’s to its hospital-adjacent original home, at 24th and Hampshire.

However, Inside Scoop reports that Pal’s will be bringing tables back to Tony’s Market:

Mason is working with market owner Kasa Meherle to get the space up to par, and then some. Among the fixes are the requirements needed to get health department approval, namely replacing wooden shelves with metal ones. There will also be some al fresco tables on the sidewalk.

The move will be completed by August 11th. But we better enjoy it while we can: Mason is looking to create his own restaurant, and is already looking at possible locations in South Park and the East Bay.

[Photo: boringtime, via Eater]

Dolores Beach

Miss the Old Dolores Park? Try Dolores Beach

Well, let’s admit it: Dolores Park is fucked. As if the bulldozing wasn’t enough, buzz-kill narcs are actually busting people for drinking. Before you waste your breath arguing for your non-existent right to booze in public, take a little jaunt with me, just over the Bay, to a place I like to call Dolores Beach.

On the briney shores of Lake Merritt, there’s a strip of grass right under the Fairyland sign that 20-somethings have colonized in the name of aimlessly chilling about. Trust me: this should serve as a more-than-adequate substitute for Dolores Park.

Pros:

  • 10 minute walk from 19th Street BART
  • Lake Merritt is usually about 5-7 degrees warmer than SF, and often sunnier.
  • Oakland PD is currently understaffed (but growing) and too worried about real crime to bust you for drinking.
  • Look how pretty Lake Merritt is!
  • Actual wildlife in the form of a ton of geese, ducks, cormorants, night herons, egrets, and the occasional pelican.
  • Less crowds=less shitty people
  • You can rent a paddle boat
  • No piss smell
  • Lakeside Park is now “dog friendly”
  • There’s this one dude that sells ice-cream, sometimes
  • If it gets crowded, there are other places in lakeside park to chill, like Dolores Beach 2 on Lake Merritt Boulevard

Cons:

  • Fuck Geese
  • Also fuck paddle boats
  • Real people exercising might make you feel self-conscious about your beer-filled muffin-top
  • Sometimes the algae blooms create a sulphury smell
  • Shit, where’s the bathroom? I’m like three beers deep bro
  • No one is selling weed brownies
  • Goose shit everywhere
  • It’s harder to look cool and anonymous with less centralized chilling locations
  • Gotta buy your booze from Whole Foods instead of Bi-Rite
  • You can’t get into Fairyland without a child, which is total bullshit
  • Seriously, does like Fairyland have a bathroom I can use?
  • Don’t whip your dick out to pee, there’s kids around
  • You might be speeding up gentrification

In fact, that last point is very nearly a lost cause. Oakland’s rents are rising fast, with tons of competition in hip neighborhoods—sound familiar? And just this week, early-rising Oakland residents were treated to a true, lasting image of the SF Tech Culture Imperialist Blitzkrieg: this dude and his goddamn pontoon bike (if we want to get technical, isn’t that really more of a catamaran bike?). Somehow I don’t think he would have gotten away with this 10 years ago.

So with temperatures slated to be in the 80s this weekend, forgo your usual Dolores Park afternoon and familiarize yourself with Lake Merritt. After all, there’s a good chance we’ll all be living in Oakland in a few years. #bikelyfe

[Photos: heyitsnye, gs_flix]

Keeping the Scene Alive

Viracocha Is Back: The Mission's Most Intimate Venue Gets Up To Code

For years, Viracocha was the Mission’s favorite worst kept secret. Upstairs you could shop for all your niche home-decor needs: potted succulents, charming typewriters, and faded LP sleeves. Downstairs was a different world. It was a not-so-secret place for bands, poets, and songwriters to perform in a room that looked more like an idyllic log cabin than a typical venue. But it turns out all the handmade lights and wood panelling that gave Viracocha its signature charm also put the venue at risk. Inspectors from the City’s Entertainment Commission told John Segel, owner of Viracocha, that the venue was not up to code from an electrical and structural standpoint. Segel closed Vira and began a delicate process of revamping the venue, while keeping its original mystique.

“We rewired the entire space” Segel told Uptown Almanac. To power PAs, amps, and anything else bands needed, Segel and the community of volunteers used flex wire and extension cords to make power. That didn’t sit well with the city. They had to hardwire all of that, replace hand made lights, and build fire exits. For a small venue smack dab in the middle of one of the City’s most expensive neighborhoods, it sounded like a death sentence. But Segel viewed it as an opportunity.

“We lucked out,” says Segel. “[the city] could have fined us. Electrical alone could have fined us nine times the amount each permit that we would have had to been gotten in order to do the stuff that we did. But they didn’t fine us.” After months and months of work, and a heroic effort from the Viracocha community, the venue is back up and running and up to code.

Last week, hundreds of people came out to Viracocha’s re-opening headlined by Con Brio, a funk powerhouse that kept the crowd dancing the whole night. Con Brio drummer Andrew Laubacher is no stranger to Viracocha, having played dozens of gigs at the venue in the past four years. Andrew said the re-opening felt like a welcome home party for the community. “I think San Francisco, for all the flack it gets, still has a community. There are people that are willing to work and fight and struggle for things that we want to keep open.”

To Segel, Viracocha’s mission is about making sure that community is connected. “When we congregate and listen to music, listen to poetry, find out that we are creative beings, that we have our hearts and minds outside of the day to day ‘Hey, how ya doing?’ There’s a little bit more substance to our lives that we rarely get to share or experience. So, it’s always focusing on being more connected.”

[Photo: dangerventure]

Bar Bubble Goes Pop

Pop's New "Caretakers" Are Begging For Cash

When it was announced that Pop’s Bar had been sold to the owner of Madrone, we were hopeful the bar would maintain its cherished pisshole charm that made it the neighborhood institution it was. And for good reason: owner Michael Krouse gave good lip to the bar’s “authenticity” in interviews. He even went so far as to tell us that the bar would preserve its character:

The structural elements will remain in tact. There will be remodeling, and there will be changes to the look and feel. Much of that is still to be determined. However one of the main reasons for buying is POPS is that it has years of character already built in, and I feel thats important to maintain.

Seven months later, the bar has been gutted out and the owners are embarking on a quasi-Kickstarter. It seems the regrettable remodel of the Mission’s beloved Pop’s isn’t going to plan.

Krouse tells Uptown Almanac that renovations uncovered asbestos in the building, and that it forced construction costs to shoot up.

But the scope of the work we anticipated has increased, due to a few “surprises”. We had to remove all the asbestos, and completely redo all the plumbing and electrical work that was outdated and unsafe. The footprint of the old Pop’s has been retained exactly as it was before, and in the process of this all we have and continue to learn about the many different lives the bar has had. […]  The reason for the fundraising campaign was to help us get over the hump since the costs have risen substantially and to build a sense of ownership and family for anyone that wants to come in and hang out, have a beer, watch a game, or listen to music.

To raise the money, Pop’s new owners aren’t even using Kickerstart or Indiegogo. Instead, they are making their fundraising pitch on their own website with a prominent PayPal donate link. The accompanying fundraising video transcends simple secondhand mortification: it is straight-up painful to watch.

However, the campaign does come with some interesting rewards you can score for donating:

  • For $25, you can get high five (presumably in spirit only).
  • For $500, you get a Pop’s hoodie or t-shirt, your name on a donor plaque in the bar, a personalized mug kept at the Bar for your use, and a $150 bar spend.
  • For $2,500 (or more), they’ll name a bathroom after you.
  • For $5,000, they’ll hang your picture in the bar and “will toast you once a year during your very own Saints day.”

It’s hard to be bitter over Krouse and his partner buying the bar—Pop’s owners wanted to sell the place, and the building itself was clearly fucked. Having Krouse come in was about as good of an outcome as anyone could have wished for, particularly given the cocktail-shaker slant the neighborhood is adopting.

But the fundraiser campaign still gives us pause. Pop’s clientele has never been the types that have spare cash kicking around, just waiting to be tossed towards a for-profit business raising capital and drink prices. And then there’s the language: Pop’s owners refer to themselves as “caretakers” and talk about “[returning the bar] it to its former history.”

But Pop’s doesn’t need caretakers. What made the bar “iconic” was the fact there was absolutely nothing iconic about it. It was a piss-soaked hellhole of strong drink and flimsy flooring.  But it was our piss-soaked hellhole of strong drink and flimsy flooring.

It’s one of the least deserving spots in the city for a museum dedicated to itself. Its no Gold Dust Lounge—it’s just a place where people drank too much and crowdsurfed during DJ sets. It never came close to resembling a living museum.

We’ll hold our final judgment on the place until Pop’s re-opens their doors in late August/early September. But the fundraising video suggests it is turning into a Pop’s-themed bar, laced with a wall of photography reminiscent of Wise Sons Deli. And that would be a shame.

[Photo: Pop’s]

Beers & Bondage

Citizen Fox: A New Brewery Headed For the Mission

The bombed out shithole across the street from the best vegetarian banh mi in the Mission is finally being renovated and put to use. Citizen Fox, a brewery/restaurant to be located on the corner of 18th and Mission Street, is slated to open in late 2014. And while I’m thankful that this isn’t some craft cocktail “experience” dropped on us by the visionaries behind the upcoming new and improved Pop’s, I’m made more than a little wary by the ratio of buzzwords to content on Citizen Fox’s blog.

It only takes three sentences for Rich Higgins, Citizen Fox’s brewmaster, to start talking about his plans to “offer education” and “develop community.” I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even possible for someone in 2014 San Francisco to drop the bullshit and just open a restaurant that serves food. Afterall, this is a brewery, not an expansion of the Women’s Building.

Other tired platitudes that make an appearance:

The opening beer menu at Citizen Fox will be influenced by the things I love most about the Mission District — it’s warmth, liveliness, and vibrancy. […]

I’ll draw on a variety of European brewing traditions […] while infusing them with the creativity that’s such a big part of San Francisco’s hip food, craft beer, and cocktail scene.

Maybe Citizen Fox really will contribute positively to the community (in addition to the obvious benefit that it’s another spot to get drunk on artisan craft brews). For example, in an attempt to follow through on their promise to offer education, Citizen Fox is proposing a 10 month, 35-hour a week internship program that requires the following duties:

  • Attentive learning, training, and communication
  • Working while being watched by a curious public
  • Entering dimly lit and/or enclosed spaces occasionally
  • Frequent bending over, squatting, working above your head, working on ladders, working on knees, working on the floor
  • Repeated gripping and manual twisting of clamps, tools, and hoses

This exciting “journey into the craft brewing industry” reads less like an education curriculum and more like the rider on Kink.com’s “Public Disgrace: Brewery Edition.” But, hey, it pays $15,000.00. So fuck it, I’ll see you at the brewery.

[via Inside Scoop]

Love in the Time of Tinder

The Mission’s Got a Live Dating Game Show

Of course the city that recently ranked #1 on Rent.com’s list of best cities for singles (39% single adults?!? Are you fucking kidding me?!!) has a live dating game show. The updated take on the saccharine, hetero-normative classic has been playing at Z Space for the better part of a year now. The creatively named ‘Z Dating Game’ is set up like the old show: 1 single person interviews 3 others in front of a crowd of strangers. Features that make this version particularly San Francisco:

  • Gay and Lesbian Rounds
  • Interpretive dance of people’s embarrassing sex stories
  • The venue is an old warehouse, repurposed as a theater/art gallery, because of course it is
  • From what I can tell, everyone is drunk
  • The press release is ironic: “Remember, the path to true love is always easier with hundreds of strangers vocally questioning your every step.”

This shameless exploitation of horny singles happens every couple of months. Z Dating Game is this Saturday, 8pm at Z Space (450 Florida St.). Advanced tickets can be purchased for $10 here, and are $20 at the door.

Maybe Dylan MacNiven Can Buy Them?

Lost Weekend Video In an "Immediate Crisis," Struggling to Stay Open

Perhaps old video stores need to die. We all stream our movies on Popcorn Time or Netflix or via your friend’s ex-girlfriend’s parent’s HBO Go password anyway.

But Lost Weekend Video is just shy of their 20th anniversary, and it would be a shame to lose them. Their staff is friendly and knowledgable, they allow some of California’s best up-and-coming stand-up comedians to perform in their basement, and they always have that obscure movie Big Streaming’s licensing agreements forgot. However their business is plummeting, and now they’re fighting for survival.

An open letter being circulated spells out the problem:

Times are tough at Lost Weekend Video! We’ve seen business suddenly drop by 30% just in the last few months, on top of the 60% hit we’ve already taken over the last few years. This has thrown us into pretty immediate crisis. We’d been working with an architect & the City to open a larger version of the Cinecave in the back half of the main space upstairs, but have found that it’s impossible due to a combination of the layout of the building & Valencia Street business restrictions. That has left us pretty much out of options.

So now we’re looking at the Le Video solution to keep us open. If anyone knows anyone with an actual solid business plan interested in sharing the upstairs space with us, please have them contact us via the website. It’d be great to find something that fit in with our old school Valencia vibe & could provide an opportunity for someone who wouldn’t be able to afford V St otherwise. Spread the word or if nothing else, rent a movie, see some comedy or come watch the soccer with us & throw a buck or two in the bucket. We’re a year away from 20, it’d be nice to see it!

In an interview with the SF Bay Guardian, Lost Weekend co-owner David Hawkins frames their struggle as not strictly about neighborhood video stores, but the future of community spaces in the Mission:

This is not just about video stores. This is about so many different kinds of retail that are going to disappear from all kinds of neighborhoods as this goes on. And if that’s the way that everybody wants to go, then that’s the way we’re gonna go. But if people stop and think about what’s cool about having some diversity of retail in your neighborhood — there’s something to be said about these kinds of places where you can just go in, browse around, and you don’t necessarily have to buy anything. It’s place to hang out and meet people, talk to people.

Lost Weekend might be hard to save—modern laptops don’t even come with disc drives anymore. But if you want to see them stick around, go see a show in Cynic Cave. Geek out on their Asteroids machine. Or, hell, rent a movie.

[Photo: Todd Lappin | h/t SF Weekly]