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]