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 We had to remove all the asbestos, and completely redo all the plumbing and electrical work that was outdated and unsafe.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.