The Hot Spot was always the kind of place that every dive-themed bar aspires to be: filled with folks from every walk of life, all stuffed between delightfully downtrodden walls, and with Hungry Man dinners on the menu. It remains the only bar on the planet I’ve walked out of with more money than I walked in with, only because every round came with a free scratcher and occasionally those fuckers choose to pay out. Undoubtably The Hot Spot should have been a local’s haunt in some Red State backwater yet, miraculously, it was spitting distance from San Francisco’s City Hall.
Despite its perfection, The Hot Spot closed in January for a few weeks worth for renovations. But then the bar found itself completely gutted, the weeks became months, and then the staff dropped this bomb on Facebook:
To our Hotspot patrons, our reopening date is now cancelled due to legal action that we have with our slumlord. The bar is not functional and we will not know when or how long before we can reopen.
With that, yet another one of SF’s prized dives has gone under the knife, never to return. But fortunately for us, the ever-funny Ivy McNally shares with us this piece remembering her preferred neighborhood haunt:
San Francisco remains chockablock full of dive bars, but nuh-uh, not anywhere near my neck of the woods — the desolate, windswept no man’s land between Civic Center and Hayes Valley. You know what I’m talking about: Mid-Market. The “Twitterverse.” My home stretch for nigh on five years now, all that time dangerously nearing the precipice of becoming an uncool place to live.
(Is it becoming uncool specifically because I live there? Possibly! I once wore a construction paper mustache to the premiere of Anchorman and NOW LOOK WHERE WE ARE.)
Well guess what dummies, it finally happened. Venerable despite being virtually unknown, The Hot Spot has disappeared from those lonely blocks in between the Sort of OK Walgreens and Pretty Scary Walgreens. It follows Marlena’s’ and the Buck Tavern’s departure, leaving me bereft of establishments within stumbling distance from my apartment where I can read and drink alone surrounded by men over age 45.
Where am I supposed to go now? The library??
What initially attracted me to this otherwise intimidating dive was a very poorly attended Thursday night karaoke party. Is there anything better on this earth than a poorly attended karaoke party? Not if you’re as arrogant and anti-social as my friends are! If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing your voice mingle with those of the Honda dealership car wash crew to create soothing background music for lonely old people to get drunk to, then frankly I just feel sorry for you.
It should also be said that in a city so reverential of karaoke jockeys, KJ Eve is criminally underrated. In addition to absolutely nailing Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” every single week, KJ Eve is also a paralegal and a medical illustrator, with a robust crochet bikini business on the side. I do miss her so.
Also missed and worthy of mention: Adorable bartenders Michelle and Amanda, who always remembered my name even though I was usually far too drunk to remember theirs. Over the years, I saw a lot of cute girls crack under the pressure of daily 86ing dentally-disadvantaged patrons who reminded them perhaps a bit too much of their folks back home — but never those two. Those gals are tough and they taught me things about Jello shots I never even dreamed I wanted know.
If you never had a chance to visit the Hot Spot, I think you should know — although I almost hesitate to tell you because it’s so depressing now knowing its fate — but Hot Spot was home to the only Drinko game I’ve ever seen off the Isle of Alameda. If you are unfamiliar with Drinko, it’s simply Plinko, but with shots in place of cash prizes. If you are unfamiliar with Plinko, you have way bigger problems than the Hot Spot having closed.
Being somewhat isolated, the Hot Spot’s clientele were mostly regulars and the whole place had a rec room vibe, if for some reason your parents had painted the rec room to match the hue of a prostitute’s favorite eyeshadow. It had MegaTouch. It had three TVs, two of which were typically airing UFC press conferences. It had a pool table upstairs that I actually only saw twice; one of those times I was just up there making out with a guy from OkCupid. Days later, I realized there was a small closed circuit television behind the bar playing the whole mess, but I guess it probably wasn’t that big of deal because what do Amanda and Michelle care? THEY’VE SEEN WORSE AND MUCH WORSE!
As an institution, the bar served as an excellent barometer of character. If a boyfriend didn’t like the Hot Spot, it probably meant he was too good for me. And if a boyfriend loved the Hot Spot, it probably meant he was going to fuck a stripper while we were dating. Why do I choose to love things I know will hurt me, such as deserted dive bars that are destined to shutter? Probably because it took me 18 minutes to write an obituary for my mother, but this one has taken two hours.
To conclude, while we can never know exactly why The Hot Spot closed its doors, we do know it will be missed by many. And what we will miss most of all is…
The Hot Spot Special: Any well shot, any bottled domestic beer, and a lotto scratcher for $5.
FIVE DOLLARS. That my friends was the last great deal this city will ever see, and I seriously doubt Alta CA has plans to replicate it despite me tweeting it at them repeatedly.
[Photo: Dennis Brumm]