The Fate of the Elbo Room… What I Think

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So everyone has heard by now that the owners of the building where the Elbo Room bar and nightclub is housed want to tear it down to build condos. It was reported that the building owners, the Rings, expressed their intention that the Elbo Room could then move to a new location. That’s a nice thought, but would things really be the same?

The club has been there for 20+ years and is an institution in the music community of San Francisco. The Elbo Room is special for a lot of reasons. The club and the building have a rich history. It’s a very welcoming space, with little details in every nook and cranny. The sound system is wonderful… I have never heard a band or DJ sound bad there, ever; and the club owners recently got all new lighting for the stage and revamped the green room for the bands. They have live music or DJ Dance parties 7 nights a week. There is always something going on, and it is a very eclectic mix of choices— from the bi-weekly Saturday Night Soul Party, weekly Sunday night Dub Mission (Reggae) and Thursday’s Hi Life (Funk/Soul), Burlesque, Rockabilly, Belgian New Beat EBM, Rock n Roll, Metal, Dark Wave, Funk, Hip Hop, Trap, Punk, Queer Dance Parties and almost anything else you can think of.

The Elbo Room boasts the longest running happy hour in the city, from 5-9pm, 7 days a week. NINE PM! No one does happy hour that late and the Elbo Room’s drink prices are among the lowest in our ever more expensive city. While everything in San Francisco is changing around it, the Elbo Room stands firmly in the middle of it, like a promise that we will not forget our roots.

When building owners were asked why they didn’t develop another piece of land, Susan Ring was quoted as saying; “We don’t have the money for it.” I do not understand how they can afford to tear down a building and build condos, but they can’t afford any other alternative? They own multiple properties. They said they want a place to retire that doesn’t have stairs like their current residence does. Why don’t they sell that house and buy a condo? Why don’t they sell the building to another San Francisco native that wants to keep the Elbo Room there? Dennis Ring said the bar is “part of our legacy” … if he believes this, I don’t understand how he could bear to tear it down and remove a legacy from our city.

Susan Ring was also quoted as saying, “This project isn’t displacing anyone.” Well, I beg to differ. The Elbo Room has a staff that is like a well-oiled machine and a family. Its regular customers know the staff and are friendly with them. One bartender has been there for 20 years! Several others have been there for 10 years. It employs Bartenders, Bar backs, Sound engineers, door people and coat check staff, is the livelihood of multiple club promoters who do their clubs there, as well as the cleaning and maintenance guy who has worked there forever.

The community outrage and people sharing the story on the Internet is growing like wildfire. If the Rings tear down the club to build their retirement dream condos, I predict that the community will HATE them… people will tag the building, litter around it, and generally make life hard for them. I don’t think they realize how uncomfortable it could be for them. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure the ghosts of the Elbo Room are real and would haunt them. I’m not even kidding.

I am writing this as someone who has been a regular at the Elbo Room for over 14 years, and employed as a bartender there for 8 years. I’m outraged by these plans NOT because I work there, because I have other jobs and am not concerned over my employment. I am outraged because it is a ridiculously stupid plan to tear down a club this rich in history to build condos. It absolutely WILL displace a huge chunk of our music community in San Francisco, and will be a huge loss to our city.

I’d like to add, that although I’ve met the Rings and think they seem like very nice people; I just don’t agree with these plans which look out for their own self-interest while contributing to an ongoing problem –San Francisco losing its wonderful intimate clubs and music venues. We can’t even blame this one on the tech boom. As long time residents of San Francisco, I don’t understand how the Rings would want to leave that kind of legacy behind. Maybe they’ve ‘been there, done that’, but the Elbo Room is still thriving. Most clubs close due to financial problems, so watching this happen to a thriving business is just very disheartening to me as someone who loves seeing bands and DJs and dancing, as well as enjoys the ambiance of the main bar on weeknights.

Since co-owners of the club, Matt Shapiro & Eric Cantu have the lease through November of 2015, we have a whole year to keep enjoying and supporting the Elbo Room, keeping the faith, and doing whatever we can as a community. This is not the end.

Quotes were from:

http://missionlocal.org/2014/11/elbo-rooms-possible-fate-a-retirement-pad-for-bars-past-owners/

Here is another recent article:

http://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2014/11/21/the-elbo-room-is-far-from-dying-but-theres-still-a-movement-to-save-it/

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