From Uptown

If there’s ever been a time to truly appreciate the small businesses in San Francisco, and mourn those that have closed, it is now. With the pandemic, so many local businesses have gone the way of the dinosaur, no doubt to be replaced with something else. Others have said goodbye because the owners decided to retire. Oftentimes, what arrives in their place are totally new ventures, that pay no homage to what stood there for years, decades even. Some, like the new owners of Toy Boat Dessert Cafe in the Richmond, a new owner will purchase the business with plans to keep the nostalgia going. Toy Boat has been renamed Toy Boat by Jane, a nod to the new owner.

To celebrate San Francisco history, as well as honoring the businesses that are no more, we decided to take a look back at what existed earlier in the spot of newly popular bars.

Michaelis Grocery Saloon

Photo: San Francisco Call, March 8, 1911, UCR Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research California Digital Newspapers Collection

Paul Miller, a reader, commented on the phenomena of changing ownership, on our last article on now-gone Mission bars. Michaelis Grocery Saloon, he wrote, opened in 1881, at 3202 Mission St. It was the business venture of Henry Michaelis. The locale shows up in newspapers and included his residence, a grocery store up front, and a bar in the back. 

In the March 9, 1911 issue of the San Francisco Call, the business was again up for sale. Miller wrote  that a Mission bartender, Reinhardt Rhodes bought the bar in 1913, renaming it the Junction Bar, after the Valencia/Mission  junction where it was located. However, it appears that  the Junction Bar was in business in 1911, according to a San Francisco Call article that depicts a robbery occurring there that year.

By 1934, it became Gatley Springs, the business of Michael Gatley, who opened it that year, and ran it until 1952, when he sold the bar to his niece Gertrude and her husband Vince Jones, who then had it for another 25 years, until 1977 (Vincent passed in 1984). 

Photo: The Royal Cuckoo Organ Lounge/Facebook

Nowadays, 3202 Mission St  still houses a bar. The Royal Cuckoo Organ Lounge, opened in 2010, and owned by Paul Miller and Debbie Horn, has kept the tradition going in the old school locale, with the added bonus of live music seven days a week.

The Cozy

Photo: eBay
Photo: eBay

Our next trip back in time takes us to The Cozy. Also known as Hal’s Cozy Tavern, this bar was located at 539 Valencia St., and owned by Tessie and Mike. In addition to cocktails, the tavern offered “fine food” and advertised itself as “the place where friends meet.” We know that this bar existed sometime between 1946 and 1966, because this is when the Monarch Match Company (in San Jose) made one of the matchbooks pictured above. There was also an article in the June 14, 1957 Santa Cruz Sentinel, which spoke of the arrest of Oscar Venable and Harold L. Missmore, who were the owners of the Cozy Tavern in San Francisco (the arrest was part of a “bookie ring” in the Mission District). 

Photo: San Francisco Call, March 21, 1891, UCR Center for Bibiographical Studies and Research, California Digital Newspapers Collection

But it appears that the address was long a bar, as in an 1891 newspaper ad advertising the sale of a saloon at 539 Valencia. The advertisement says it was first established as a saloon in 1869. After that, the address housed the Hotel Berlin in 1907,  was the home of ship fireman Irvin V. Campbell in 1956, the Casa El Salvador Cultural Center in 1986, a press/graphics shop in 1992, and Reda Darwish’s funky shop Multikulti from before 2000 to 2016

Photo: eBay

The Skyscraper

There was a time when “you were always welcome” at The Skyscraper (also known as The Skyscraper Tavern, and the Skyscraper Lounge), located at 3336 24th St. Pat Griffin was the owner, according to a vintage matchbook. Since the San Francisco-based Universal Match Company was founded in 1925 and changed its name in 1966, the bar existed sometime between those years (the locale was Metallic Sign Co. in 1907). 

Photo: San Francisco Call, February 10, 1907, UCR Center for Bibiographical Studies and Research, California Digital Newspapers Collection

We found a mention of Tiny’s Skyscraper  Lounge at 3336 24th St. in the May 1936-October 1941 South of Market journal.  one of the Skyscraper in the 1937 Polk’s Crocker-Langley directory, as well as one of the Skyscraper Tavern in a 1945 directory, and an ad from 1960, which shows N. Costello as the proprietor. Finally, the October 1981 San Francisco Policeman shows the Skyscraper Lounge as being at 3336 24th Street.  

After being the Skyscraper, 3336 24th Street became The Attic, owned by Roger Howell when it closed in 2014. The September 24, 1998 Bay Area Reporter art calendar spoke about a poetry reading that was going to take place at The Attic. Today the boozy locale is the 24th Street Bar, owned by Caroline Brown.

Photo: Caroline B./Yelp

Donati’s

Photo: eBay

Each bar has a successive history. The Connection Bar at 5740 Mission St, was Donati’s Drinking Bar in 1953, and this vintage, 1946-1966 matchbook describes the watering hole as the “last stop on Mission Street in San Francisco.” If you wanted to call the bar, you would have to dial JU. 5-9831, that’s how old school it was. 

In June 1980 it became the scene of a drug bust. 

Photo: Charles C./Yelp

Happy Club

Photo: eBay

The Happy Club, at last by name, sounds like the place to be. Back in the day, it stood at 2140 Mission St., between 17th and 18th, and was run by Louie and Helen. We were able to confirm it existed during the 1940s, per a listing of taverns in the March 29, 1942 San Francisco Examiner. And in the September 28, 1957 SF Examiner, we learned about John D. Kollias, who received a “15-day suspension for sale to an obviously intoxicated person.” This matchbook, based on its appearance, looks like it dates from the 1960s. 

Photo: San Francisco Call, April 10, 1920

Before then, 2140 Mission Street had various lives. In 1897, and 1913, self-proclaimed “elderly German” Charly Binder was placing an ad seeking employment, stating that he was “an all around handyman in kitchen, house, or garden work.” His listed address is 2140 Mission. 

In 1920, the locale was The U.S. Army Quartermaster Store, a place where you could buy “shoes and meat at reduced government prices.” It was a branch market of the main retail store, which was at the Red Cross Building at Hyde and McAllister Streets, and moved to 1735-1741 O’Farrell. 

Photo: Organized Labor, Volume 22, July 30, 1921, UCR Center for Biliographical Studies and Research, California Digital Newspaper Collection

Then, in 1921, the address was home to The Quality Doughnut Shops Company of California, which offered donuts wholesale and retails, in addition to serving “light lunches.” 2005 saw SF foodies head to the locale, this time for sushi at Country Station Sushi (which looks like it closed in 2008). Today, 2140 Mission is once again a bar, home to The Sycamore. 

Photo: The Sycamore/Facebook

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7 Comments

  1. I enjoyed this feature a lot. The Royal Cuckoo is great, though the only “old” bar on the list I remember is The Attic. It smelled like puke, enough so that I always sat towards the door . I went to its replacement, smells a lot better but with no character.
    I hope the remaining Mission dives can make it through the pandemic. One of the few places in SF you can come as you are in these days.

  2. Great article – thank you! I miss The Attic and it’s lone low-watt light bulb in the back. Love Royal Cuckoo.

  3. Just found this article! Thanks and you are right I shorted the junction bars origin by a few years . The Junction bar was also owned ed by a German fellow and mission bartender named John Miesner and his wife Sophie he died in 1929 but I think she owned it for most of the remaking years during prohibition

  4. Frequented Barone’s bar and Donati’s (later the Connection- no relation to the Connection on 24th St.) in the 1960’s and70’s. Spouse and I and in-law brother and sister used to go to Donati’s on Sunday mornings for a New Orleans gin fizz (also Ramos fizz?) and breakfast. The drug bust, as I recall, was 26 customers and the bartender. One of the owners was a retired cop, Tom Morris- “Morris the Cat”. Not involved in the drug bust, I think. Found T-shirt “Morris the Cat” for him at a garage sale.

  5. I ate a few times at Country Station Sushi,1990 +/-. Sushi chef in cowboy hat. Even had the natto beans, once. I remember a bunch of magazines left by Diane DePrima with her address blacked out.

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