Dive Bars Dropping PBR and Tecate to Reduce Vandalism

We spend plenty of time “promoting tagging” or whatever, so in the interest of fairness (pageviews), here's a fairly interesting fact that came to light in our comments the other day: bars in the Mission are hella bummed about bathroom graffiti and they believe serving PBR and Tecate is partly to blame for it.

At least, that's how it unfolded.  Starting with Tuffy, bar manager at Pop's on 24th:

We have to paint Pop’s EVERY week inside and out. The fines from the city are one thing but it also has other implications—like independent insurance assessors that report tags as evidence of a criminal element in the area and report that back to the insurance company so our rates go up.

That’s hundreds of dollars a month to clean-up after taggers and, so far, we haven’t passed that cost on to our customers.

Someone asked that he break down the cost of it, to which Tuffy responded:

Easily 100s. First of all, we have to pay someone to fix everything. It takes between an hour or two each week to repaint everything. That's $30 a week in wages alone. Then there is the cost of paint, rollers and tray. And then you calculate the amount our insurance was raised and you're easily into $200+ a month.

Then someone alluded to knowing “a certain bar owner that is thinking of getting rid of PBR and Tecate so the scumbags will go elsewhere.” And our buddy Jack chimed in saying, “Dirty Thieves (Blind Cat) raised the price of a PBR to $4 and a game of pool to $1.50 less than two weeks ago. When asked why, the bartender yelled at everyone about 'all the problem kids' that ruin the bar.”

All this seemed kind of incredible—artists effectively gentrifying themselves out of the neighborhood.  Was that really the case?

Pop's somewhat-famously ditched their cheap beers two years ago as well, so I asked Tuffy about it and the bar's general problem with tagging:

That's EXACTLY why we got rid of PBR on tap and Tecate cans about two years ago. There was a noticeable change—same thing when we got rid of the pool table. We're still committed to our dollar beer nights, but we also know that those are the biggest nights for tagging.

As far as Pop's goes, there's countless stories of graffiti's adverse effects:

  • The smell of spray paint driving people out of the bar.
  • About a year ago, someone tagged a barstool with blue ink and a nice woman sat on it and ruined her skirt, her and her four friends immediately left—there goes another round of drinks and tips. This has happened a few times.
  • It's a constant battle with our game vendors/photobooth to ever get anything upgraded or fixed because they just get destroyed by taggers. Can you imagine trying to rent our old pool table to another bar? That thing will have to be completely re-finished before the game company can rent it out again.
  • All the issues I mentioned previously about our insurance and the upkeep.
  • We get 30 day notices from the city pretty often. So does St. Francis and other area homes and businesses.

As for our policy at Pop's? If we catch you, you're 86'd.

We've installed new security cameras primarily to help reduce our insurance costs. Secondly, for the protection of our employees—a certain bike thief and and a dozen of other have made pretty serious threats against the bar and myself. We had a problem with a purse/jacket/iPhone thief for awhile and wanted to get surveillance on that. Lastly, all parts of the bar are now being recorded so if you're going to tag in a public part of the bar we're coming after you—you will be 86'd, unless you want to come in and repaint the bar and pay for the damages (we have a list of tags and taggers).

Regarding “snitching” - I'm over it. If these people are so determined to continue to vandalize and destroy our property, we're going to start handing over photos, video and names to the police. That's how fed up we are.

Alright, well… shit.  Who wants to go tag Phone Booth?

[Note: I changed the title of this post a few hours after it was first published because I liked Many Machine's suggestion better]

Comments (41)

You wrote: “artists effectively gentrifying themselves out of the neighborhood”.

This is a post about taggers, right? Taggers are not “artists”, in either intent or execution. I’m not saying some graffiti isn’t art, but tagging never is. Maybe some artists also tag. But tags are not “art”.

thanks, just wanted to clarify.

Thanks for weighing in with your expert opinion as an art critic.

No problem, you’re welcome.

The ratio of people using the label ‘artist’ to justify not having their shit together to actual artists who are serious about their work is approximately 10:1

Thanks Kevin. BTW, I the owners of the Phone Booth. But then I know the owners of most of the bars in the Mission, I drink alot.

It shows.

I know the owners. I am sober now, that’s the problem.

The pops people are overstating it. They either pay the cost to clean up the graffiti every week, OR they pay the fines to the City. The City does not fine if the graffiti is cleaned in under 30 days.

Still I hate graffiti.

Right, that’s exactly what they said - the cost figures quoted are what they pay per month to have it cleaned up so that they don’t get fined by the city. No overstatement there.

also, I think he fines relate to exterior street facades only. As far as I know, the City doesn’t fine for tags indoors.

Correct on both counts. I did not mean to conflate the two. The fines are $500 per tag. Also, the task force is now taking photos of every tag they cite us for as well.

However, our insurance issue explicitly cited tags in the bathroom as “evidence of a criminal element active inside of the bar.”

I don’t envy your position at all and it is good to know that insurance companies are still protecting us from things like bathroom tags and stagediving. I work for a local non-profit and we own several affordable apartment buildings all over the City. Our maintenance staff can not keep up with the tags and a lot of our operations budget goes to cleaning and/or fines instead of improvements/repairs to the properties. Still trying to figure out how the victim paying for the crime is justified.

Ya Dirty/blind cat/ treat has the same insurance policy. They just paint it throughout the night as the graffiti starts to show up with spray paint. Looks like its a two way street.

i’m a new reader to Uptown (followed a link on facebook) but can I ask why exactly you would “promote tagging”? do you also promote dog poop on sidewalks? there’s roughly the same artistic ability in both. graffiti adds color and excitement to a neighborhood, tagging is akin to dogs peeing on bushes.
interesting read though. thanks!

It’s all in the execution. Dog poop on the sidewalk is just dog poop. Dog poop on the sidewalk with flags stuck in them is ART. In this case, POLITICAL ART!

Your sarcasm detector is on the fritz sir. Kev was merely quoting and mocking a comment from the previous post.

The funny thing to me about complaining when taggers get caught it that they are basically writing their name or personal doodle on everything. It’s not anonymous. Getting caught (or trying not to) is part of the game.

Taggers are scumbags.

Says the dude with the Cult of the Dead Cow avatar. I guess digital vandalism is cooler?

Dude! Digital Vandalism?! I love that band!

Really, though, what “digital vandalism” do you think you are referring to? I honestly can’t think of a single example of the cDc being involved in anything that could remotely be considered “digital vandalism”.

I’m gonna puke if you call Back Orifice a “remote administration” tool. I won’t deny the technical chops needed to write something like that is far beyond a kid scribbling with a marker or whatever, but a lot of people’s lives were made shittier as a result of it. Fuck up someone’s computer with software that can do all kinds of nasty shit, fuck up somebody’s property with paint, we’d all be better off without either. It’s not like the stakes are even remotely equivalent, either.

Awww shit, hacker fight a a-brewin’! Sounds like someone got their orifice or two pwned.

The original Back Orifice was produced/released specifically to show and prove the fundamental lack of security Windows 95/98, that’s why we announced it and released it publically (and why BO2k was released open source). You want to apportion blame, you can point it directly at Microsoft for refusing to take security seriously for years and years. Back Orifice/BO2k did not create any vulnerabilities, it merely illustrated those that were already in place. And, it is worth noting, we consciously and deliberately chose not to do several things that would have made it much more difficult to block the installation of Back Orifice and to discover it once it had been installed. To put it succinctly, we hobbled it because the point was to reveal the unsafe environment being marketed by Microsoft, not to actually cause damage.

Your logic is spurious. Accusing a group of security professionals of being “digital vandalism” in this context makes about as much sense as accusing the 3M corporation of being taggers because they manufacture cans of spray paint.

I’m now wondering if we’ve met before.. years ago, maybe at a cDc meeting in Vegas.

Could be. Howdy!

Time to retire this screen name, cowman. ;)

In reality, the screen name becomes more a part of the persona over time, changing it will do no good.

Shit, i just realized who you are after all this time.

I get the argument, I just don’t expect anyone who had to clean up the mess to agree with it. Much in the same way that regardless of what kind of artistic vision taggers are trying to share with the world, it doesn’t make you a sophisticate, it just makes you an asshole. Anyway, this isn’t that interesting of a derail, and the UA comment board isn’t really the right place for the tired white hat vs black hat argument anyway.

Let every tag remain. Let every public surface slowly turn to black. Let every window become opaque with acid wash. Let every tree be covered in poisonous paint. Let every mural be buffed with ten thousand tags.

Fine, but the inside of a bar is a private surface. If it ain’t yours, don’t write on it.

The owners of the various bars should get together to identify the common problem tags.

haha youre all fags. graffiti will never end

huhhuh youre all fags huhhuh.

Whatever, douchebag.

The fact that the San Francisco Department of Public Works and an unnamed insurance company use graffiti as an excuse to fuck small businesses and property owners up the ass reflects badly on the DPW and the insurance industry, and has very little to do with the actual graffiti or the people who create it.
How much much money does the city spend on these Graffiti Inspectors? A couple hundred thousand dollars per year just to hassle people because some kid wrote on their property?

^ now we’re getting at the problem here

correction: pop’s serves $1 beer on multiple nights. i’d welcome the smell of spray paint over that resident butt-stench the bar emanates on a nightly basis.

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