Johnny Motherfuckin’ Davis talks about the SF bar scene

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Broke-Ass Stuart last week published an in-depth interview with Bender’s co-owner and longtime SF bartender Johnny Davis. Here’s a peek:

BAS: Are you worried about dive bars disappearing in San Francisco?
JD: Well, it does suck that a lot of them have gone by the wayside. But it’s just the nature of change, the nature of progress, and there’s really nothing to be done there. Someone buys something, they want to make it their own, make it a little bit nicer. A lot of the time, the city forces them to make it nicer through ADA compliances and things like that. Yes, the classic dive bar is going to be a thing of the past at some point, but I don’t know. Some of us still enjoy that, some of us are still trying to run those.


BAS: What do you miss about bartending back in the ‘90s compared to now?
JD: It was a little more lawless, you know? There wasn’t— [laughs] you could scream at someone without hurting their feelings, you know? I don’t know. The town was a little looser. There were more wild things going on then, which meant the bars were a little wilder, the whole scene was a little wilder. There were better bands and more bands, really. It was more of a blue collar town back in the ‘90s, which meant folks could get by on a serious budget. You could find a place to live for 300 bucks a month. You could eat burritos every day of the week for you know, $4 a burrito back in the ‘90s. It was an easier town where you could get by without killing yourself working.

Read on for the whole thing.

Oh and also: the time Johnny Davis saved my life.

A bartender’s guide to bar etiquette


We all know the bar is a great place to make bad decisions. However you always stand out when you keep it classy with good bar etiquette. Our bartenders give you their best advice to keep in mind for your night out on the town:

  1. We love prepared, polite, enthusiastic drinkers. Behave with gusto – your night will thank you for it.
  2. Before getting the bartender’s attention, know your group’s order and order all at once.
  3. Be patient. Whistling, snapping and yelling are a good way to get a dog’s attention, not a bartender’s attention.
  4. If your bartender is busy, stand in their drink well for speedier service, then move away after getting your drink.
  5. Have your money ready when you order.
  6. Don’t underestimate the power of “please” and “thank you”
  7. Never ask for a strong drink, just spring for a double.
  8. Live in the present – by tipping with every order. Never say “Get ya next time” Like you, bartenders can’t pay rent with compliments.
  9. A crowded bar is a no parking zone, move away after getting your drink.
  10. Keep your grubby paws someone else’s drink (and anyone or anything that doesn’t belong to you for that matter.
  11. No one likes a jerk. Be nice or leave.
  12. Become a regular. (We LOVE our regulars).
  13. No freebies on your Birthday, that’s what your friends are there for, to buy you drinks!
  14. The fruit try is not an all-you-can-eat buffet.
  15. Bar napkins, stir-stix, beer labels, etc are there for a purpose. That purpose is not for you to tear them up and litter the bar.
  16. The bartender only wants your iPod or iPhone if it is a gift.
  17. Think of others when using the restroom. Be quick (and clean).
  18. Leave when you’re drunk. And leave safely with a cab or designated driver.
  19. Do not smuggle in booze. The bar’s business is selling alcohol. Please don’t undermine this beautiful mission. You wouldn’t bring dinner to a restaurant.
  20. PUT DOWN YOUR CELL PHONE and engage. Maybe even buy a new friend a round?
  21. Be 21 or over.

Now that you know how to get around like a pro, check out this week’s entertainment line up at Pops Bar:


Drama Talk & Drinks: Star Trek Live – Mudd’s Women “I just wanted to stare at her”

Little known Drama Talk & Drinks fact: Katie’s great uncle, James Doohan, played Scotty on the OG Star Trek. So when we got notice that there was a drag-king version of one of the original Star Trek episodes, “Mudd’s Women”, which was happening at Oasis, we knew we had to check it out. 

Amber Sommerfeld as Spock, Leigh Crow as Captain Kirk, and Honey Mahogany as Uhura

Amber Sommerfeld as Spock, Leigh Crow as Captain Kirk, and Honey Mahogany as Uhura

Brittany: That was fun! The woman who played captain Kirk, Leigh Crow, was amazing!

Katie: Yes, she totally nailed a spoof of captain Kirk, she got the campy-ness.

B: Also Spock (Amber Sommerfeld) rocked, and Honey Mahogany is beautiful. I just wanted to stare at her.

K: So true! I think they created an entertaining world. They had fun lighting, and sound effects, the set was cool and the costumes were on-point. Even though they were parodying the show, they did it in professional way that honored what they were making fun of.

B: You can tell that the people who really rocked their characters are totally Trekkies, that’s the only way they could have nailed those roles. The “Stump the Captain” Star Trek trivia game at intermission was not only fun, but showed a true level of devotion to the series. Unless those questions were planted, which I don’t think they were, there’s no way she could know all that trivia without being a fan.

K: Also the Beam Me Up Scotchy was delicious. No problem with meeting the two drink minimum with that, and I don’t even like scotch usually.

B: Overall a fun night of beautiful drag queens, talented drag kings, strong drinks, and lots of Star Trek nerds. What more could you want?

The Verdict: Go see it, it’s a good time. If you like Star Trek, and think campy drag shows are fun, you’ll really enjoy this.

The Drama Talk: Shows at Oasis hold themselves to a high standard for production values and talent, while still not taking themselves so seriously that it loses the fun. This show is a drag-king version of a particularly camping Star Trek episode, so don’t expect any deep earth shattering revelations. But if you’re a Star Trek fan looking for a fun way to spend a chilly rainy night, this is a great option. This is technically the show’s second time around – it opened in September and sold-out that run – this is the encore so tickets may go fast.

The Drinks: Oasis has a great bar, and friendly bar tenders. On the night we went you could stay after the show to drink, and get to see the late-night male-revue after, so if you go on a weekday you may also get so lucky. They had a special menu of Star Trek inspired drinks and the Beam Me Up Scotchy was the clear winner of the bunch.

Star Trek Live!: Mudd’s Women; A Drag Send Up Of The Groundbreaking Sci-Fi Series, runs through January 23rd at Oasis. Tickets on the Oasis website are $25 for general admission, $35 for premium seating, or $225 if you want the The Vulcan Champagne Table which is a front row table for four people with a bottle of Chandon. Right now there are also tickets available on Goldstar for $12.50-$35.



[Editor's note: This news was reported in last week's Pop's post, but Pop's is very excited about it, and we're very excited about it, so we're highlighting it again -- and you should be very excited about it! A new entry in SF's long and storied history of 6am bars! And then of course, after the jump, this week's Pop's entertainment calendar.]

Early mornings? Back to work? No worries, Pops has you covered. Pops is now open at 6am daily! Enjoy a selection of morning drinks such as regular coffee, irish coffee, mexican coffee and bacon bloody marys guaranteed to put a pep in your step whether you are winding down from a night shift or gearing up for the day ahead.

Check out this week’s entertainment line up at Pops Bar:


Inside the revamped Amnesia


Back when longtime owner Shawn left town suddenly over the summer everybody was like what’s gonna happen is it gonna stay the same. And the answer was that yes it was gonna stay mostly the same but maybe with some minor changes.

Well, they closed up shop for a couple weeks and reopened over the weekend. Capp Street Crap checked it out yesterday:

 A visit there Monday night found the bar feeling bigger and looking sleeker and brighter. The interior was also sparser, with its ceilings opened up to reveal wood beams. A new soundboard and booth is now set up near where couches used to be, the bar has been redone with a new bar menu posted above it, and the stage is slightly larger.

Read on for the full report and more photography.

What’s happening to Casanova???


Don’t fret:

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[via Kate]

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

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]