The story of Amnesia (and its owner Shawn Magee)

Spoiler alert: they’re parting ways. We assume Shawn is moving on to bigger and better things, and by way of announcing the news, he shared on Facebook the inspiring story of his history with the bar. (And he explains that there’s nothing to worry about — Amnesia will be in good hands.) It’s a great read:

Dear Lovelies, I am writing with some news: I am leaving Amnesia. Obviously, this has not been an easy decision for me to make, and has been lingering in my mind for the past few years. It feels like breaking up with someone I’m still in love with. It’s not you, it’s me, honest. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this community, and it pains me to mess with something that is so loved, especially when things are changing so drastically all around us. But don’t fret! AMNESIA IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE. It is being passed into capable hands, people who I believe will try their best to keep the integrity of this place and enhance it in ways that I never could. They are real people who work hard and care about what they do. They may not run around the stage in a diaper as much as I do, but, honestly, that’s no way to run a fucking business, now is it? The bar will be passed to Beth and Craig Wathen, who currently own the great SOMA hang, City Beer Store. They are solid, community-oriented people who I have had the pleasure to work with over the past 4 years. They are coming in with two partners, good friends who were some of their original customers at City Beer. Let me be very clear: I hand-picked Craig and his crew to take over because he knows Amnesia and values its place in the community. Everyone should congratulate them. It is a big deal for them and they deserve absolute kindness and respect. Truthfully, I never thought I’d do any one thing for 15 years, but Amnesia has been an unexpected and amazing surprise. Some of you who are reading this may have never met me, and others don’t know how this place came to be. So, here is a short tale about that: I came to San Francisco 15 years ago on a plane from Connecticut. I had come on a 3-day vacation to visit some friends from high school who were living in the Mission. I was 23 years old, stranded and broke, and living with my parents. I was depressed and directionless. I didn’t like San Francisco. It was too dirty, with too many homeless people, and a cold, hard rain poured from the sky every day of my trip. Despite all that, it was better than where I had come from, and I never took that return flight back to the east coast. Instead, I hung up a hammock in the kitchen of my friend’s 1-bedroom apartment at 21st and San Carlos, and got a job at Dolores Park Café, where I was worked to the bone for $10/hr. (It is very clean at Dolores Park Café). Another high school friend was bartending at a new beer and wine bar on Valencia St. called Amnesia. She told me she could give me a Sunday shift over there and I showed up that next Sunday and just started working, having never met my actual boss. The owner was a laid-back Belgian guy named Jean-Paul. He was a restaurateur, had two little girls, and a lovely, intense wife. He was pretty hands-off at the bar and let his employees run the place. I had never bartended before, hardly drank at all, and couldn’t pour a beer. But, I learned to do all those things. And, surprisingly to me, I loved coming to work for the first time in my life. I loved my regular customers (who are all still friends today). I loved making connections in my new community, helping people find work, or roommates, or just putting interesting people together. So, when the friend who hired me decided to get a day job, I quit Dolores Park Café, worked the bar every night I could, and couldn’t get enough. About 6-months or so into working at Amnesia, Jean-Paul announced that he was going to sell and move his family off to Europe. As soon as he told me, wheels started turning in my head. I made a phone call to my dad, and then my aunt, and a few other family friends. I basically pleaded with them to take a chance on me. Some did, some didn’t, but with a good amount of persuading, I got some promises. Jean-Paul wasn’t about to cut me any deals, though. He got the best offer he could and said that if I could match it, the place was mine, and he gave me 10 days to do it. Now, asking people for money and getting them to put it into your bank account are two different things. So, I had longer phone conversations with all my would-be investors. I sent them photos and sales predictions, development plans, and a whole bunch of other stuff I didn’t know anything about. After all that, I lost a couple investors, but managed to convince 5 brave and trusting people to put their money into my bank account. Personally, I invested all I had: $300. I had to have a lawyer write up loan documents for everyone, signed my financial life away, and told Jean Paul I was in. In the end, I was $15,000 short, and Jean Paul took pity on me and loaned me the money himself, with a clause that if I missed a payment by more than 10 days, the bar would be returned to him. I did not tell this to any of my other investors. The first couple of years were stressful, terrifying and glorious. I had to fire some people, which is still the worst thing I ever have to do. I worked too much. I even passed out from exhaustion during a shift at the bar, had to kick everyone out and close early. I didn’t sleep. Chicken John stopped me on the street and told me I was going to fail because I wasn’t an asshole, and I was worried he was right. I lived off tips and managed things from my hammock in the kitchen. I sent my checks in dutifully every week and kept my fingers crossed. I managed to get an entertainment permit and legitimately start booking bands. I met the wonderful human being, Sol Crawford, and was smart enough to give him full reign whenever he asked. Sol could take an ordinary night of music and with a well-placed shout, the pop of a cork, and a nice tie, make it extraordinary. There was a lot of bar-top dancing in those days. Mostly, I just made it my job to make sure everyone always had the best time possible when they came through Amnesia’s door. I’ve always felt proud of everything that has happened over here, and am still proud. I tell this story not to self-aggrandize, because in the end, it’s just a little bar and I am a speck on a speck of sand in this universe. I just wanted to remember a little bit and, speck or not, this bar has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel more at home at Amnesia than where I sleep. I know every loose board and leaky pipe. I have scrubbed piss and vomit from the floors and came up smiling. It was my clubhouse, and everyone with a good heart and open mind was invited. And it doesn’t have to end. Amnesia is really about you: The people who love and support it. It is about musicians, poets, comedians, actors and imbeciles, and the fans that support them all. I was only ever a small part in what this place has become. During the last few months of my reign as king toilet-scrubber, I plan to put on some special shows. I will post about these shows under the heading: “NOTHING’S HAPPENING.” Some performers are veterans of the Amnesia stage who have grown too big to play on a regular basis, and some are personal favorites. So, if you see me post something about a secret guest, or a special show, you better do yourself a favor and get your ass down to the bar. I’d like to go out with a bang, and you could help me in that goal by supporting this music, respecting the performers, screaming appropriately, and dancing your pants off.

Happy trails, Shawn!

[via Capp Street Crap] [Photo by Google Maps]

Truck is closing

Capp Street Crap, the best news source in San Francisco, has the scoop:

More sad news for the Mission. After 8 years at the corner of 15th and Folsom streets, gay bar Truck will soon close. One of the owners Matt announced the news this afternoon on his Instagram account.

[...]

According to public records, Truck’s liquor license is being transferred to a business called The Wooden Nickel. [link]

[Photo by Google Maps]

The bar formerly known as the Attic will now be called…

[via Capp Street Crap]

Elbo Room definitely getting kicked out later this year, but the owners hope to start over elsewhere

Here’s the official word, via Facebook:

Hey Everyone
There is finally news.
Dennis and Susan Ring had a meeting with the powers that be and they seem quite confident that their condo project will be able to move forward.
As a result, they have decided not to renew our lease which expires Nov. 1st, 2015.

Yes, we are in shock.

What’s next?
We will be looking for a new space to continue what we are doing. With hopefully as little lapse as possible.
We own the liquor license, the business and all contents inside (except for pinball/pacman).
Hopefully we can find something soon.

If you have any leads on a space for us, or wish to help… please email mattshapiro@mac.com

Thank You for your ongoing support

Matt Shapiro/ Erik Cantu
and the staff of Elbo Room

Sooo, better check out the Elbo Room calendar of events, or just pop in for happy hour.

[link] [via Capp Street Crap]

One last look at the Lexington Club

Ryan Kost at the Chronicle takes an in-depth look at the history of the place and the drama surrounding its very impending closure:

Lila Thirkield moved to the Mission in 1994. She was 23 at the time. She had tattoos and spiky black hair, and she played the drums. She never even considered another neighborhood. “All the dykes lived in the Mission,” she says.

In some ways, it was a revolutionary time and place for queer people. Artists, musicians and writers had come to the area. People felt energized.

“I always compared the ’90s in San Francisco for dykes and trans guys to being like Paris in the ’20s,” says Lynn Breedlove, the founder and lead singer of the homocore band Tribe 8. “At the time, we were popping out all over Valencia. It was mohawks and spikes in our face, and everybody’s name was Spike.”

Read on for the whole story.

[Photo by The Lex on Instagram]

Zeitgeist palm tree

We were surprised and bummed to hear that our pals over at the Bold Italic suddenly closed up shop, but it was heartening to see that even the bartenders at Zeitgeist, typically known for their gruff demeanor, felt the urge to usher them off on their unplanned vacation with this nice little treat.

[Photo by Lauryn]

This needs to be our new jam

This police scanner recording from a couple months ago in response to a reported hookup in Delirium’s bathroom would make a great auto-tuned song.

Dispatch: “Okay, it’s a 311 at 16th and Albion … at The Delirium? And there are people having sex in the bathroom, no description.”
Officer: ” … No sex seems to be happening.”
Dispatch: ” … 311, 16th and Albion, no sex happening.”

Let’s make that happen, someone with musical skillz.

Drama Talk & Drinks: “I wish she was my grandma…”

If you have grandparents who loved Murder, She Wrote marathons, or if you grew up with an affinity for singing teapots, you can’t help but have a special place in your heart for Angela Lansbury. Who else can make murdering people and cooking them into pies sound so sweet? So, when we heard that at age 89 she was doing a super-limited North American tour of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, we knew we had to see it. So, off we went to SHN’s Golden Gate Theater for a night of laughs, drama talk and drinks.

Katie: Go fucking see this show!

Brittany: IT WAS SO GOOD!

K: If you’re going to throw down some money on a really fun, twists and turns, old-school, straight-play comedy, THIS is where you should put your money, people.

B: It was amazing, and Angela Lansbury is the most adorable, wonderfulest person. I wish she was my grandma. I mean I love my grandmas, but I’d take her as my third grandma any day.

K: Be prepared though, because every time she walks on stage people love her so much they can’t stop clapping. Which was annoying, but I get it.

B: She walks on stage and all you want to do is give her a hug. You can’t take your eyes off her, she’s that talented. Everyone in this show is really talented, but she is exceptionally talented.

K: This is one of the few shows I’d say don’t have a drink before, because you don’t want to miss a thing. It starts off with a lot of British fast wit, and you want to be able to follow it, because it’s hilarious. What I really loved about his play is it wasn’t predictable.

B: There’s a reason some plays survive the test of time. This was written in the 1940s, and it’s still so funny.

The Verdict: If you have the money, or if you don’t have the money go find some money and then see this show. When you aren’t mesmerized by what’s happening on stage, you’re hoping that the scene change doesn’t mean the play is over, because you want it to keep going for another hour. One of the best shows we’ve ever reviewed.

The Drama Talk: The best actors are the ones who you can tell absolutely love performing, and you can tell Angela Lansbury loves being on stage. It’s no wonder she won a Tony for this role. She is phenomenal; you can’t help but watch her and love her. This is a quick, smart, witty play, but with enough darkness and occult elements (it’s a comedy about ghosts) that it doesn’t get saccharine. All the actors are great. With a play this fast you need a tight cast, and they are tight. It’s a national tour, so of course the set and design are top notch. As delightful as this show was, perhaps the most endearing part is watching Angela beam at her curtain call. She really is one of the greats. Don’t miss this chance to see her perform.

The Drinks: We had rock-star parking near the Golden Gate, so we decided to stay nearby and go to The Showdown across the street for drinks. It’s an “Urban DJ Saloon” so, as promised, there was a DJ spinning and an open-mic hip-hop show happening. It was hard to hear yourself over the music, but the drinks were strong and good. Brittany got a martini (since those are the drinks they open the show drinking) and Katie got a gin and tonic, and we yelled excitedly over the DJ about what an awesome show we had just seen.

Blithe Spirit runs through February 1st at SHN’s Golden Gate Theater. At the time of writing, SHN’s website was showing the error “We are currently experiencing high demand for tickets. Please check again shortly.” Since price is variable based on demand, these aren’t going to be cheap tickets. If any are still available you can get yours on SHN’s website. As of right now there are also tickets available on Goldstar.

Lights, fog and magic with KJ Paul

I hadn’t been out to El Rio for KJ Paul Karaoke in a few months, so when I went last night my mind was blown. KJ Paul has seriously upped his game by adding in multiple wild disco lights and a fog machine, which makes singing feel way cooler than it already is. And if you’re nice to him he may even give you the remote to blast the fog freely. So fun.

Keep the party going between Christmas and New Year’s with Uptown’s weekend-long 30th anniversary celebration!

It’s been an intense year for this beloved local bar, so what better way to cap it than with 3 days of nonstop party??? Happy birthday, Uptown!

Everything is free and open to all:

Friday, December 26 – 6pm to 10pm
Birthday Reunion Party
Celebrating Uptown Founder Scott Ellsworth, current and former staff, regulars and all community members. Wear an Uptown T-Shirt and pay 1984 prices!

Saturday, December 27 – 6pm
Musical Review & BBQ Feast
Featuring musicians who have called Uptown home over the years, including Mindi Hadan, Douglas Katelus and Ivy & Devon.

Sunday, December 28 – 6pm
Uptown Salon
An evening of poetry & prose by local writers, hosted by Uptown Bartender & Poet Tym Butler.

Don’t go leavin’ town!

[Photo by Ariel Dovas]