The Entertainment Commission will decide the fate of Amnesia tonight, when it considers allowing Craig Wathen, the owner of City Beer Store in SoMa, to take over Amnesia’s entertainment license from former owner Shawn Magee.
Magee hand picked Wathen and his team, including Wathen’s wife Beth and two other investors, Lee Topar and Scot Plewacki, to take over Amnesia after his move to Mexico.
Topar, Plewacki and Wathen met in SoMa, and formed the South of Market Boys LLC to handle the bar in a salute to a sort of community serving gang that was active in the neighborhood around the turn of the 20th century and after the 1906 earthquake.
“We want to be a part of the San Francisco that has a soul,” Wathen said at a small meeting to address community questions or concerns about the bar’s new direction. It appears that little will change. Regular Jeff Seiwald, one of two community members in attendance, wanted to make sure that the bar would still be serving his favorite beer, Death and Taxes. He also hoped that visitors might be encouraged to talk less during performances.
Wathen, who said he used to frequent the bar in the late 90s and early 2000s, offered assurance.
“We don’t want to lose the feel of it, but we do want to clean it up,” said Wathen who assumed ownership at the beginning of August and has been operating under a temporary license.
He plans to close Amnesia for a few weeks in November to repaint the interior, have an electrician update some wiring, update the beer tap system and maybe renovate the bar. And, as the owner of a beer store, he might be adding to the drink repertoire, but it won’t be PBRs and it won’t be Budweiser: “We’re not gonna put top 40s music on the stage, and we’re not gonna put crap on tap.”
He does hope to have more music programming. With a freshly renegotiated lease that will last another ten years at a slightly below market rate, Wathen said the LLC isn’t under pressure to turn a big profit right away, so he hopes to start opening earlier and having acoustic sets in the late afternoon. He’s also hoping to more frequently dispense with cover charges.
“We anticipate being a neighborhood spot, maybe one where you can come in earlier in the day,” Wathen said.
That is, if the Entertainment Commission approves the license transfer, which is likely but still a hurdle that makes Wathen nervous. Should the Commission reject him, the bar closes. Since Magee’s departure, he’s already hired two new employees and is on the lookout for more, and he hopes everyone will be able to keep their jobs. Still, he’s hopeful — but just in case, he’s collected somewhere around 500 signatures on a petition to allow the transfer.
“If Amnesia can’t retain its license then what can?” he asked, citing the lack of upstairs neighbors who could be unhappy and the bar’s clean safety record. “If it doesn’t pass, then music is dead in San Francisco.”
Amnesia’s license transfer will be considered at 5:30 p.m. in room 416 of City Hall.