“Pop’s is not going away,” says new owner of Pop’s!

“Let it be known that Pop’s has been around since 1947, and I like old things,” says Michael “Spike” Krouse, the new owner of Pop’s, “Pop’s is not going away.”

Krouse is a longtime San Franciscan and a longtime SF bartender and bar owner, having worked at several bars all over town before taking over ownership of Madrone Lounge (and reinventing it as the now very acclaimed Madrone Art Bar) about 5 years back. It came to our attention today that he is the new owner of Pop’s right here in the Mission! So, we asked for a Q&A, and he was into it:

Mission Mission: In general, and specifically in San Francisco, what makes a bar a good one?

Spike: A good bar to me is all about AUTHENTICITY. I came to San Francisco because I wanted to be in a place that was unique to everywhere else. I expect the same things from the places I eat and drink at. That’s what makes them special. It can be divey or fancy as long as it’s authentic. And when it’s done right it becomes alive with energy, and you feel that energy the moment you walk in the room. Great bars can and will stand the test of time, they are not trendy, they move beyond what is artificial and become a fabric of the place and time that they exist in.

You’ve had Madrone for around 5 years now? How’s it been, owning your first bar and all?

It’s been an adventure, and one that I can’t wait to do again at Pop’s. Madrone is as much about me as it is the neighborhood and the location. The location dictates what the bar becomes. The customers define the bar. I just listen to them — and my staff. It’s kind of like throwing darts: sometimes you hit a bullseye and sometimes you miss the board. At Madrone I’ve done both, but I keep trying new things.

What do you like about Pop’s?

Besides the neon sign? The history: it was started in 1947 by World War II gunner Jack O’Connor returning home from the South Pacific. His dad helped him open the bar, hence the name Pop’s. (See the attached picture.) It became an instant SF institution that allowed him to foster both his innate man-of-the-hour persona, and his enduring affinity for fun. He was also a bartender at the Hungry I and 12 Adler (now Specs). He also opened up the New Hearth, known for “High Balls and High Times.” He was married five times and liked to gamble. (See attachment #2.) Over the years the Bar has had a few different owners (Bradley Fitzgerald, Francis Prieto, and currently Malia and Harmony). In the early ’80s Pop’s moved to the current location for whatever reason. Probably a rent hike. Nonetheless, the history of the bar has character and I love that aspect.

What do you like about 24th Street?

24th Street is still the heart of the Mission, it’s still Mom and Pop, it’s still authentic. I remember my first visit 20+ years ago, when I was a student at the art institute and I was turned on to Precita Eyes and Galeria de la Raza. I take my kids to St. Francis Fountain, and play in the mini park while we wait. I like La Victoria Bakery, and Roosevelt Tamale Parlor. I like all the murals, and I especially like that it still feels like the San Francisco I fell in love with.

Divisadero [where Madrone is located] and 24th are undergoing some similar changes, as many SF streets tend to do. As a business owner and longtime San Franciscan, what’s your take on watching these changes happen?

Change is inevitable. And these two streets are comparable. Over here, for the most part we have people who care about the neighborhood and how their business fit into the fabric of the community. I think that’s super important. You can’t be just a taker. Especially in areas like 24th and Divisadero. They are both small tight-knit communities. My take on the overall changes I see in the city is this: I came here 22 years ago, because I fell in love with San Francisco, I fell in love with the idea that no matter who you were or what you were into, this city would welcome you. I came here with a very little bit of $ in my pocket and found place to live, and a way to grow and experience the life I wanted. I may have grown up in Las Vegas, but I came home the moment I moved here. And now I’m raising my children in San Francisco. What concerns me now, and I hope the politicians can figure it out, but if I was 20 years old now, I don’t know how I would be able to move here and make a life. I think we need to maintain a place for the young dreamers; otherwise our great city will become less unique. We need different people.

Do you have any special plans for Pop’s?

Yes I do. It’s going to be a place where everyone is welcome and everyone feels at home. I’m so happy to have a bar with such a strong history in San Francisco. Any bar that has lasted 67 years has earned the right to continue and thrive. I can’t wait to push it forward with integrity.

[Photos by the San Francisco Public Library]

Bars with fireplaces

Just in time for winter, SFist has compiled a list of SF bars with fireplaces. The Mission’s own Homestead made the cut:

While the Homestead’s heat source is actually a cast iron stove, it’ll cure your winter chill just as effectively as anything else on the list. With free peanuts that you’re free to toss on the floor and buxom nude portraits adorning the walls, the place hasn’t changed much in more than 110 years of operation.

Read on for lots more fireplace.

Hausu V. House

Alex dropped us a line about his free cult movie night at The Knockout, Mutant Matinee. I haven’t seen House, but Hausu is a weirdo scary classic.

This weekend we’re doing a double feature of haunted house movies! Both called House! It’s free admission, free popcorn, some trivia, some tasty halloween candy and prizes, drink specials, and food available from my pal Kitchen Eclectic, who will be serving up vegetarian pumpkin chili with toppings and homemade blue corn chips.  The movies are both great – House (aka Hausu, Japan 1977) is a masterpiece of mind-warping psychedelic insanity, and House (USA 1986) is a weird mishmash of horror, slapstick humor, and really great 80′s special fx. and both movies will be shown on the big screen! This will be this Sunday evening from 5-9 PM, before Sweater Funk lights up the dance floor.



Facebook event page here.

Peek into the crazy fun Pride party that went down at El Rio (NSFW)

Everyone’s making a big deal about Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs last night, but they probably would have completely lost their shit had they been at the El Rio Pride party last month. Luckily, Courtney Trouble has managed to capture all of the excitement from the party in one amazing (NSFW) video, so do yourself a favor and check it out!

Inside Boozeland

Emperor Norton’s Boozeland, the new Tenderloin bar from the boys behind Bender’s, is open for business! And it’s awesome! Lots of the architectural touches from the space’s previous incarnations are fully intact, it’s as spacious as ever, lots of light makes for great day drinking sessions, the bathrooms are waaaay nicer than ever, the back patio is open and lovely, and beers are real cheap at happy hour.

Plus it’s right around the corner from the AMC on Van Ness, so it’s an ideal spot to stop for drinks before (and after) a movie.

[Photos via Boozeland]

Fun police pops Pop’s, no more DJ’s allowed

It’s becoming more and more difficult to simply enjoy a fun DJ dance night at a dive bar these days, as the city has been been expanding their crackdown on spots that don’t happen to possess an official cabaret license.  The latest victim is everyone’s favorite crusty watering hole, Pop’s.  So R.I.P. Drop Out, although you can still catch Jackie Sugarlumps at the Makeout Room for her monthly school of soul, Web of Sound.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like this all started when some jerk NIMBY moved across the street from the Attic and started hating on all the fun that people were having dancing to the likes of 2MWMY and Indie Slash, forcing those acts to move on to Amnesia.  Said NIMBY did some research and found out he could stop the music by employing the cabaret license technicality, and it seems that the fun police picked up on that and used it against Cassanova, which now is unable to host DJ’s as well.

Hopefully this is the last dance night to go down, but I have the uneasy feeling that the city is just getting started.  As for Pop’s perhaps they’ll finally just have to finally go all-in on that sports bar concept!

[Photo by Erik Jutras]

Inside Urban Putt

On Tuesday evening Steve Fox opened up the doors to the space at 1096 South Van Ness, future home of his mini golf restaurant bar, Urban Putt, and let people wander inside and look around. The former mortuary was most recently renovated to be a bar and club, but retains a lot of the original flair and regality of a classy/cheesy 20th Century mortuary, including some creepy little brick chambers and a stairway to nowhere in the basement. I spoke with Steve and his designer Christopher Myers about their plans.

The plans for the holes are pretty ambitious and sound like they’re going to be a lot of fun to make. As someone who has also built an indoor park with building exteriors in this neighborhood, it’s right up my alley. Many of the holes are going to be locally themed, recreating monuments and places from San Francisco that go beyond the typical postcard locals, such as the spot where the 1906 Earthquake survivors meet every year. There will also be a private room to rent out, bars around the space and dining upstairs. We wrote about Urban Putt previously here.

Anyway, back to the holes, most of them will be on the main floor, but some will also lead the golfers into side rooms where they will step into a submarine environment. The fabrication will happen on site and Steve is looking to include local artists/designers to help create one or two of the holes. You can contact him if you’re interested.


Rad new spy vs spy horse mural soon adorning Pop’s


Our pal Aaron noticed this happening across the street from his house, and it reminded me that damn, it’s been a while since I had a Bloody Mary at Pop’s Sports Bar. Perhaps it’s Bloody Marython season again!


Aqua double frame, bro

Invasive non-native aqua cycles spotted at 24th and Bartlett Attic bike lockup area. Cosmic coincidence?

Drama Talk & Drinks: Burlesque at Balançoire

Welcome to the “Drama Talk & Drinks” number three. This time our friends Katie Cruz and Brittany Janis went to see a burlesque show at the place that replaced the place that came after the place that was named for Frank Chu. Here’s their report:

[photo via Balançoire on Facebook]

It was Brittany’s birthday last Thursday, and we were looking for a place to get drinks. We heard that a new bar and performance venue was opening in what was most recently The Blue Macaw on Mission, Balançoire: “A full service restaurant, bar and nightclub featuring a French/Creole inspired menu, two dance floors and bars & a performance stage perfect for a variety of events”. The 18th was opening night, and their in house Burlesque company, Le Chat Roux, was performing. Since nothing says birthday more than pasties and tassels we had a bunch of friends meet us there for after-dinner drinks and, of course, drama talk.

Brittany: So I want to start off saying, I did have fun. Anytime you get a big group of friends together to drink, dance, and watch ladies take off their clothes it ends up as a good night.

Katie: True, but if I wasn’t with our group of friends I would have been like “WTF”. The place doesn’t quite have a clear identity yet. The inside had a poorly thought through chair and table layout, cheesy strobe lights, and bad music…something was just really off about the vibe. It also would have been great if they had a cocktail waitress.

B: I’m sure part of it was opening night jitters, but in burlesque the taking off of the clothes is the show. Instead, a few of these girls just danced all cray and at the very end were like “oh shit, guess I need to take this dress off” then they struggled with the zipper, pulled it off super quick, and then bounced up and down with their tassels twirling in a panic because their music had already ended.

K: The only performer who I really liked was Eva D’Luscious – she really rocked those large white fans of plumage.

B: I’m just happy I avoided getting birthday spanks, unlike the other birthday party that was there. Although the hostess Kittie Von Tittie was actually really fun, so I would have let her spank me.

K: I think our friend August said it best: “The show wasn’t amazing but I fully support courage in all it’s forms, especially if it could potentially piss off a republican”.


The Verdict: We probably wouldn’t go again, but if you have a big group and need a place to go that will provide plenty of space and some sort of entertainment then keep this place in mind. We can’t speak to the food but the menu was limited and definitely not cheap ($20-$28 range). Hopefully this place pulls it together, but due to it’s current bizarre atmosphere, bad drinks, and mediocre service we wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t last very long.

The Drama Talk: If you want to see girls struggle to take off their clothes, make sure you sit close to the stage. The space is oddly structured at the moment so the stage view is blocked to most of the bar by a row of tall bar tables.

The Drinks: BAD, but at least for cheap for opening weekend. A gin gimlet is not served in a pint glass on the rocks, enough said.

Balancoire just completed their Grand Opening Weekend, but they have lots of events on the horizon. Check out their Facebook Page for the latest.