Potrero Locals Have Their Way With "Evelyn Lee"

In what could be the first case of a neighborhood bar reverse gentrifying in a long, long time, we're thrilled to report that Dear Mom and the Thieves empire has given up on Evelyn Lee and is reportedly returning ownership of the bar to the displaced staff of Mission Hill Saloon.

It was exactly a year ago to the day that we tepidly broke the news that Mission Hill Saloon, the somewhat maligned neighborhood hangout, was being purchased by the folks by Dear Mom.  We were unsure if that meant fancy cocktails (it didn't) or a radically redesigned bar (nope), but we were certain we'd see a change.  And change it did.  The charming blowhard regulars weren't quite so welcome, the Mission Hill Saloon bartenders were fired, and they gave the place pretty much the worst bar name imaginable (“The Unresolved Love Life of Evelyn Lee”).

For all their effort, no one went there.  As one source close to SF Thieves tells us:

The neighbors to The Saloon left it alone while [Thieves] begged for outsiders to come in.  When that didn't happen, they were left begging for the regulars to come back.

The regulars did come back—found nightly huddled up on the left end of the bar berating the world—but it wasn't enough to save the bar from reportedly losing money.  So rather than hold onto a failing bar, we're told Thieves sold the license to a collective of old regulars, former Mission Hill bartenders and staff.  And they wasted no time dismantling what was left of Evelyn Lee, gleefully cheering the removal of its sign and joking about shitting on it as Lee's bartenders finished their final shifts.

To borrow a page from Dr. Thompson, is Potrero Ave. the high-water mark—that place where the wave of gentrification finally broke and rolled back to Valencia?  No, we're not foolish enough to think that.  But it's refreshing to know the neighborhood's most successful and, arguably, trendiest bar empire can't even turn some places upscale.

[Also on: Chowbacca | Video by MHS]

Comments (49)

Finally, some good news!

not every bar has to charge 15 bucks for artisan cocktails or whatever. some bars are a success because they are just regular bars and aren’t all cool and shit and artisany.

Hear, Hear.

Realistically, the wave is just beginning.

As Kevin notes, of course it’s not receding, but I have a bone to pick with it’s “just beginning.” Were you here when Foreign Cinema opened 15 years ago or so? How about when Andalu took over the Maya space however many years ago? The socioeconomic changes to the Mission definitely did not start when Skidmore grad #10,103 arrived here in 2011. It’s been a long, ongoing process, that almost every commenter here (including me) is *part* of, not just witness to.


I remember being so mad about Foreign Cinema and thinking that its long walkway was so you could walk your ass back to the Marina. Seems so naive now.

I remember the collective cheers at Doc’s Clock when they not-so-politely told the a coaster/pager carrying Foreign Cinema party that they were not welcome to pass the time in the bar while waiting for their table. Meanwhile, the Yuppie Eradication crew were outside shattering the windows of a white Range Rover.

I got a nasty case of food poisoning from Maya once.

I’ll always have fond memories of Maya. It introduced this New Englander to the chile relleno.

Yet another reason I fucking love Doc’s Clock.

Well, that was the old Doc’s Clock – when they didn’t believe in having crappy decorations haphazardly tacked to the wall and there wasn’t a clock. I never really warmed-up to the current owners/staff.

Not me, I love ‘em. And the Clock they’ve recently put up on their marquee is replacing one that was there originally (but was removed sometime in the early 90s and turned into the neon sign that sits over the bar inside).

don’t forget that the original ‘hip’ owners of Doc’s clock (liz etc) were the beneficiaires of officer ludlow who openly pledged to shut down
latino bars and hand them over to white owners. This 90’s shit is all documented. Eric lyle is an actual real journalistic source despite the name of one of his zines. . An officer Ludlow conversation happened by many witnesses. He got moved finally.. Mission Records was also able to do shows by paying a very low bribe each month to the cops. While if latino teenagers congregate on a corner drinking , or just stand in a group on a corner, they can be subjected to vicious throwdowns. Wille Brown was horrible about this. Once he sent a dictate (and they happened often about gangs) I saw the cops demeaning so many kids, right in broad daylight. If you went up and tried to say “hey don’t make those kids lay on the sidewalk and kick their legs apart’, you would go
to jail for intervening. Common knowledge among ‘white’ and POC people in the 90’s that cared. My roommate spent a whole weekend in jail (they like to do this shit on fridays!) and then got all charges released of course.
I’m not saying at all that people that bought those bars are anti latino…pro gentry etc…They were just opening bars. And the owners of
several of these establishments that happened in the 90’s, were also VERY welcome to older latino’s hanging out. And , add, most of the
bars that got shut down were strickly ‘men’ bars, with dealing etc. I had many many experiences in doc’s clock in the mid to late 90’s, where the door person and the bar person and even often with an owner present, would eject white people, and obviously upper class white people just for being stupid…and ALWAYS for fucking with non white locals. Respectful neighborhood regulars as WELL as non white scammers, or beggars and real down and out people, actually got better treatment……then the barking yelling perfumed. Gentrification does not happen cuz people have jobs, or are a certain color….it happens cuz real estate has a bubble and the ‘gentry’ move in to profit off it…..

I do disagree about the name though. At least it was original.

I’ll give them points for originality, but it was weird beyond reason.

If it were just “The Evelyn Lee” I would have loved it as a name; like the name of an old ship. But the full name was just way too pretentious.

Agree. Too precious by a factor I’m incapable of calculating.

Sounds like her love life was finally resolved.

Sadie’s Flying Elephant. That is all.

Potrero Hill as the Maginot Line against gentrification. (Similar outcome)

Let’s be clear: the crowd Evelyn Lee sought to attract is younger, and the bar is, for them, a destination. Having worked in and been around the industry for a couple decades I understand that attracting people in their 20s can be key to the survival of many bars.

The decisions made by SF Thieves to attract that demographic cannot be faulted, per se, however mismanagement (firing staff, banning dogs, failure to stock the beverages of choice of the locals) doomed Evelyn Lee.

The bar, whatever bar, that exists in the space once occupied by Sadie’s Flying Elephant (yes, I went there) will never be a gold-mine, it will always be a neighborhood bar - and if you want to strike it rich, you need to go elsewhere.

We wish success to the new owners, but, again, they will not retire on that bar’s revenue alone.

SF Thieves could have avoided the debacle had they made smarter management decisions - that is the sad fact, and the unfortunate coda on the Evelyn Lee story.

I brought the garage bike back to life. See you at the Saloon soon.

Agreed. Management treated it like a red headed step child.

I say bring back the Sadies era free popcorn.

Sweet! I love The Saloon. Bring back the smut wallpaper in the bathroom!

It is really too bad the Thieves people didn’t have a good plan on this one, but I’m stoked to have this reversal! Can we call it Sadie’s Flying Hill Saloon? I still want someone to buy up Qi and call it Stinky’s Cherry Wagon Club.

Trendiest? Most successful? Was Jay giving you head as you typed this article?

That was funny.

I generally use “trendiest” as a pejorative, and with regards to Dear Mom that is more certainly true.

I think you’re confusing this blog with Mission Mission.

I boycott that site.

I went there. I liked it there.

i found this bar because the bartenders there. i went there 3 nights a week on average. i got know regulars. so did my friends and it made me want to move over there. there were no fancy drinks. nothing crazy. no massive changes. it was a great spot and im sad to see hating on the thieves/ dear mom bars bc theyre all laid back and have pretty cheap drinks and nice bartenders. i really liked the crew here and they really tried to make it a rad spot, and by rad i just mean busier. they never gentrified it or made it bougey. sad face.

Translation please.

About damn time.

At least they renovated the bathrooms. I went there a few times when it was still Mission Hill Saloon, and relatively frequently when it became Evelyn Lee. I didn’t really mind the change. My favorite thing about that bar is that it’s NOT crowded all the fucking time the way that The Uptown and god forbid Dear Mom is. It’s really nice to be able to go somewhere and not have to yell in order to have a conversation with your friend sometimes.

What do you mean? I can’t speak for ladies room, but the mens room at the Mission Hill Saloon was fucking AWESOME. I was so disappointed to see what the new owners did to it.

Well, as a lady I can speak for the fact that the pre-renovation Mission Hill Saloon were among the grossest I’ve been in! Unlike you gentlemen we also have to sit on the seat every time we take a leak between beers, and I much welcomed the new ladies bathrooms at Evelyn Lee.

The ladies rooms, post renovation, were clean enough to bang a SF State girl in. Granted we were standing, and tried not to touch the stall walls, but still, it was clean enough /justsaying

Not then first reverse gentrification. 26 Mix reverted to being a Latino sports bar.

Having lived across the street from this ill-fated spot since it was Sadie’s, I’m really bummed to hear that the Mission Hill Saloon-era regulars have won out. When it was Mission Hill Saloon, it was downright creepy - the folks inside are barely functional drunks/addicts who think nothing of a mid-day fist fight out front. We saw some crazy shit spill from the bar doors. Once we saw a totally psychotic man run into the bar with a spear. It sounds funny but it’s no fun to drink with folks that far out on the edge.

You are very, very boring.

When Mike (MHS) bought the bar his first order of business was to kick out the criminal element: local bangers, coke dealers. They all scurried elsewhere.

“Barely functional drunks” is a direct insult to your neighbors, many of whom are hard working homeowners and SF natives (several old-school cooks, a painter, business people of all stripes, service industry types, artists and musicians), who don’t have your seemingly Puritanical qualms against having a beer when they are done working at 3:30 or 4.

Now there have been some crazy things that happened there (mostly before the clean up). There is not, however, a sign on the door that says “crazy people with spears, please hang out here.”

Sorry, lady, that shit just happens, and will continue to happen. Maybe your energy would be better focused on worrying about what is going to happen to the empty lot across the street than the ownership changes of a local business (one which I greatly admire).

I’m sorry. You sound like a fucking snob. But come by anyway, I’ll buy you a drink. Maybe we can both prove each other wrong.

If they could just get those overly loud niner fans to pipe down the place would be better.

That is true of the world in general.

unfortunately that is outside the realm of possibility. i know said fans and they are just loud…

Kimberley, perhaps you’d be more at home in Walnut Creek. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out, girl.

Man, you just burned her SO HARD!

Having lived here much longer than You, and you calling me and my neighborhood friends creepy, I think you should probably live elsewhere. Obviously, you don’t socialize with us. Why did you move into my neighborhood if you think we’re ‘creepy’. As far as your psychotic spear chucking man, that’s never been reported and likely is just the wild imagination of some sexual fantasy relating to your child hood days of watching Tarzan serials, you should leave your more sane neighbors alone. I’m sorry your lonely and unhappy Kimberley. But keep it to yourself.