The Rite Spot Cafe received an entertainment permit Tuesday night — after decades of hosting live entertainment without one. 

The Entertainment Commission’s unanimous decision seemed to make everyone happy, including Commissioner Al Perez, who asked the Rite Spot’s manager, Christina Hu, “Other venues are often seen as nuisances. What’s your secret? So that we can replicate it?” 

The commission received some  120 letters of support — three of which came from tenants who live directly above the Rite Spot, located at 2099 Folsom St. at the corner of 17th Street. 

“My family has owned the business since 1990,” Hu told the commission, and it had been operating as an entertainment venue for at least 15 years before that.

The Hu family failed to realize the permit was needed until Inspector Tony Savino dropped in at the bar in early January for a night out and realized it was operating without necessary paperwork.

It managed to fly under the radar because, in all the years of operating as an entertainment venue, there had never been a noise complaint. 

Rite Spot sign

Illustration by Molly Oleson.

Hu, who manages the Rite Spot for her parents, Jose and Luciana Hu, answered the commission’s questions, which included what kind of entertainment the venue hosts. “Blues, Americana, folk, opera once a month, comedy, trivia — it’s pretty diverse,” she said. 

Commissioner Dori Caminong agreed with Commissioner Perez, saying she was impressed by the number of supporters who attended the meeting. “They were like a choir, all here to sing the same song,” she said, adding, “A lot of the letters we saw were handwritten and passionate, which is something you don’t see in San Francisco in 2020.” 

Executive Director Maggie Weiland said the commission is always looking for ways to support live music, such as offering grants. “And, with the permit, it’ll allow access to those,” she said, congratulating Hu and her father after the decision. 

“They had completed all the necessary inspections before they got here, which is impressive,” said Deputy Director Kaitlyn Azevedo, who worked closely with the Rite Spot during the permit application process.  

Asked how it felt to get the permit after enduring an entertainment hiatus that began when Inspector Savino discovered the venue lacked a permit, Hu said, “I definitely am looking forward to working with (the commission). I’m really excited we have it! It sucked to have to cancel on people and I’m excited to have our residencies back again.”

During the public comment section of the meeting, Rite Spot bartender Ginger Murray spoke to the commission. “It’s not a place that generates a huge amount of money for anyone,” she said. “But it’s a place we feel we can be ourselves, to be together. And I think that’s part of our secret sauce.”

The Rite Spot has been without entertainment since early January, but the permit takes effect immediately. “No music from Jan. 6 until tomorrow,” Hu said, smiling. “Or tonight?”