After the Blind Cat bar closed on 24th Street, it was hard to envision the spot’s next destiny. Dan Lyons, the building’s manager and owner of Clooney’s Pub, could see a gym, or maybe a juice bar, effectively ending the location’s decades-long run as a community watering hole.
His future co-owners and bartenders, Kim Cruise and Johanna Luddy, opened his eyes. “We were like, ‘No, Dan.” Luddy recalled. “‘Dan. This is a bar.”
Last week, Ruth’s at Treat Street quietly opened its doors, making it the latest inebriating enterprise to take root at 3050 24th St. In the late ‘90s, that storefront was Treat Street Cocktails, probably so named for the proximity to Treat Avenue, and then enjoyed a 14-year run as Dirty Thieves/Blind Cat. The pandemic killed off the latter.
For now, Ruth’s at Treat Street runs seven days a week, from 1 p.m. to midnight. Locals searching for cheap drinks can find $4 Tecates and Pabst Blue Ribbons, a $9 shot and a beer deal, and $1 pool games. No food will be sold. A grand opening will be announced, but not until a few loose-ends get tied up, including a sign and a soda gun. (At present, they rely on soda cans.)
“We’re really excited to just have a nice, clean, fun atmosphere that’s walking distance for the neighborhood,” Lyons said.
The venture came about easily; each of the co-owners possess deep history in the San Francisco bar industry, and with each other.
For Lyons, bars are a family affair. He practically grew up in his father’s city bar, Harrington’s Bar and Grill. Lyons’s great-grandfather opened Clooney’s near Moscone in the ‘40s, and Lyons took the reins in 1995. (His spouse, Karen Finney Lyons, runs the famed Peninsula deli Bonne Sante.)
He employed Cruise who, for 10 years, worked and managed Clooney’s. That’s where she met and befriended Luddy five years ago. At the time, Luddy’s manager was out of town, leaving Luddy in charge of some cash, which she kept in a purse.
Later, she and her boyfriend stopped for a shot at Clooney’s, where Cruise was bartending. “We were totally dazzled by her,” Luddy said. Luddy and her boyfriend left for pizza, and then realized the purse was missing. She rushed back to Clooney’s, to find Cruise holding the purse at the door. “Are you missing anything?” Cruise teased.
“She left it on the barstool and I opened it to look for an ID,” Cruise laughed. “I saw all these ones — thousands of them. I was like, oh, she’ll be back.”
“I felt I owed her my life,” Luddy recalled. “I said, ‘I’ll come back every Tuesday and give you tips.’ Then we became friends, naturally.”
Soon, Cruise convinced Luddy to work part-time at Clooney’s. Luddy had already worked for San Francisco bars since 2004, and at the time tended Blind Cat. But when the pandemic hit and Blind Cat closed, Clooney’s became her only work. “She’s the main reason we could” keep Clooney’s above water, Cruise said of her friend. “Jo is magic.”
But Cruise saw Blind Cat’s closure as an opportunity; she and Luddy knew their boss’s family owned its building. “We were like, ‘Oooh… I wonder what will happen to that,” Cruise recalled. “And then we talked to Dan.”
The process of forming the bar appeared almost fated, as evidenced by the name.
According to Luddy, it followed a phone call with her usually upbeat mother. “I said, ‘How are you doing?’ She said, ‘HORRIBLE!’ It was the day after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died,” Luddy said. So, Luddy thought, why not name it Ruth?
When the pair presented it to Lyons, he agreed immediately. Clooney’s was named after his grandfather, Joe Clooney. Clooney’s wife, coincidentally, was named Ruth. “There was no correlation, but when my mom asked, ‘Are they calling it Ruth because Clooney’s wife was Ruth?’ I just told her yes,” Lyons laughed. “It’s just a small world that fell into place.”
And, a Biblical name like Ruth satiated his Irish Catholicism. He was sold even more after discovering a definition of Ruth: “A model of loving and kindness; promotes the well-being of others,” Lyons said, carefully reading it for the record.
However, the trio ultimately agreed the bar should pay homage to the former neighborhood watering hole, Treat Street Cocktails. “It’s always been called Treat Street, people would say, ‘Meet me at Treat Street,’” all three said. Given Ruth’s at Treat Street is a “mouthful,” they guessed customers would likely continue the tradition.
Still, “we’re okay with whatever people call it,” Cruise said. “They just have to show up!”
Ruth’s at Treat Street will initially operate from 1 p.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Once it is full-fledged, it may extend its hours. Find it at 3050 24th St.