Legend has it that Pop’s Bar has been peddling booze on 24th Street since the dark days of prohibition, so it should come as no surprise that the neighborhood institution is turning 80.
On Tuesday morning, a few patrons were scattered around the bar, and one of the bartenders was whipping up a special cure — a dash of bitters on a lemon wedge — for a customer with the hiccups.
Looking around at the wooden bar, the checkered Marmoleum floors, and the throwback decor, it’s not hard to imagine the bar’s rich history — even though Pop’s had its true beginnings several doors down, where World Pioneer Video now operates.
The earliest record of Pop’s goes back to 1937. Then, it was owned and operated by Carl Joseph Saxsenmeier, who went by “Pops.” But rumor has it that during the Prohibition Era, Saxsenmeier ran his establishment as a speakeasy called Pop’s Clubhouse.
Over the next three decades, the bar changed ownership five times, and eventually landed in the hands of the Bob and Connie Griffin, who moved the bar to the corner 24th and York in 1971.
Tom Tierney and Mike Krouse bought the bar in 2013, and even though the duo has steered the bar through a remodeling, Tierney says Pop’s has retained its blue-collar, neighborhood charm.
Pop’s will be throwing a party to celebrate the milestone at the bar at 5 p.m. Wednesday, but in preparation, we caught up with Tierney to to talk about owning one of the most classic bars in the Mission.
Is there a funniest moment you remember since opening?
The only thing I can say is, it’s a fun fuckin’ bar. We do things from hip-hop nights to trivia nights to “emo” nights. I’m not saying it’s always super crazy, but it’s a really fun time.
There was that one time. It was our first year, and the Giants won the World Series. We didn’t really know what that was gonna bring. We’re a sports bar with a bunch of T.V.s., and we were blown away by how many people were packed into the bar. We had to rent extra chairs. But the day we won, I had never experienced such a celebration. There were drum circles, and low riders, and cops with sirens. It was one of the most fun street parties I had ever seen. That was really one time I realized this was right place for us.
Why do you open so early — 6 a.m.?
The hospital is right up the street. We get a fair amount of shift workers from hospitals and warehouses down the street. Some get off at 7 a.m. Just like you and me, they enjoy getting a pop after work.
Any changes in the neighborhood since you took over?
The neighborhood is struggling with some of issues that city is struggling with. There’s a lot of money coming into the neighborhood. It’s a conflict with what it has always been — blue-collar. How do you keep a legitimate neighborhood bar in a transitioning neighborhood? It’s always our goal to make everyone comfortable. If you walk in any day or night, you’ll see everyone represented. You have lawyers talking to skate kids about politics.
Why buy the bar?
We bought it because saw a lot of potential to be part of the neighborhood. When it went up for sale, we took a look around and said, “We could add something special to this bar.” I always have a desire to be part of something bigger. I didn’t know what that meant until recently. I know it seems cheesy, what draws me to neighborhood is the people and family. It feels like family whenever I come in.