September 15, 2015

September 15, 2015

The new Ha-Ra. Photo by Michael David Rose Photography courtesy of UrbanDaddy.


The bar at the Ha-Ra. Photo by Michael David Rose Photography courtesy of UrbanDaddy.


The sign at the Ha-Ra (one of my faves). Photo: ©

Fellow fans of dive bars, we have a happy story for you (for once). Back in May, we reported on the ~HA-RA CLUB~ getting new owners: Scott Broccoli (Ace’s, The Pub at Ghirardelli Square, Dobbs Ferry), Tommy Whalen (Ace’s), and Wizz Wentworth (formerly Amante). Considering the sorry state the bar was in (empty taps, barely any booze on the shelves, odd hours), it was great to hear how the new ownership cared deeply about restoring the bar with some TLC while honoring its history and soul.

I have been checking in with partner Scott Broccoli over the past few months on progress, and we are happy to report the bar has reopened as of last Friday, and it’s looking fine! Broccoli says restoration was like “peeling back an onion,” as they discovered layers of the bar dating back to the 1940s. It opened in 1947 as the Ha-Ra (short for Hank and Ralph—the owners were pro wrestler Hank Hanastead and heavyweight boxer Ralph Figari), but prior to that, it was the Sarong Club (1943-1947), which was also a bordello (you’ll notice the staircase leading up to the office and storage area now, but previously that’s where the brothel was). The hooker history also ties in well with the red velvet brocade wallpaper, a replica of what the bar was originally outfitted in. Broccoli says they looked at many old pictures of the bar for design reference, and installed the pressed tin ceiling above the bar and redid the upholstery under the bar to mimic its previous style; the banquettes in the back were also inspired by the bar’s past design.

The pool table is still there (did you know Joe Lewis played pool on that very table in the 1950s?), and you’ll notice the vintage lights are still there, too, plus the brick back bar, and the original floor (dating back to 1922) got a good staining and buffing. Some updates include the old phone booth, which is now a mobile phone charging station, and the sound system is hiding inside the vintage refrigerator. There are four TVs, and there will be two keg tables installed, where you can have a five-gallon keg for you and your friends at your own table. One area has room for 10 and another for 15.

Some more fun OG facts for you: you’ll notice there’s a lot more room adjacent to the end of the bar in the back—it ends up there was a (non-original) sheetrock wall installed, creating a room used for liquor storage. Broccoli didn’t think it made much sense since there was already plenty of storage. It turns out there were a bunch of buzzers in there, and it was previously a gambling room!

Okay, one more! Behind the bar, you’ll see an old Ortgies pistol dating back to 1924 displayed on the wall—Broccoli found it (loaded!) hidden under a cabinet under the register, and now it has a safer spot on the wall.

As for what’s being served and poured, look for a good selection of beers (including a fair number of IPAs, as well as beers covering all budgets). Cocktails will be simple but not labor intensive—a cocktail list will be coming soon, and tequila will be a highlight on the shelves.

Broccoli says there’s a lot going on in the neighborhood (Huxley, Tender, the gallery scene), and they are all excited to be a part of it. Hours for now are looking like Mon-Fri 3pm-2am and Sat-Sun 10am-2pm. Hurrah for the Ha-Ra! I hope Carl is smiling, wherever he is. 875 Geary St. at Larkin, 415-673-3148.


Central Kitchen courtyard photo by Christopher Michel (photo via Facebook).

Fans of the fantastic Matthiasson Wines will want to head to ~CENTRAL KITCHEN~ for a winemaker dinner on Thursday September 17th. Jill Klein Matthiasson will offer pairing suggestions to go with the “let the kitchen decide” tasting menu ($75 per person, pairing is $55 per person), or purchase a special selection of wines by the glass at the restaurant and in Salumeria next door.

If you want to explore Italian wines from Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, and Lazio, come by ~WILLIAM CROSS WINE MERCHANTS~ on Wednesday September 16th from 6pm-9pm for a tasting of six wines; check out the flight here.

SoMa’s ~BLUXOME STREET WINERY~ is expanding with a pop-up tasting room/temporary annex in Ghirardelli Square’s Pioneer Woolen Mills building in fall 2015, targeting October/November for opening. They’ll be pouring their (mostly) cool-climate sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir from Sonoma and the Russian River Valley. It will be open daily 12pm-7pm, stand by for an opening date. Second level, 851 Beach St., Suite F-201A.


Bloody Marys and garnish at The Bloody Mary Festival in 2014. Photo: © Andrea Vodickova via Facebook.

Ready for a hot, spicy, pickled day of fun? Look no further than The Bloody Mary Festival, happening on Sunday September 20th from 1pm to 4pm. More than a dozen of the Bay Area’s best Bloody Mary makers will be pouring the savory beverages, including bartenders from Foreign Cinema, The Elite Café, Picán, 1760, and Mission Bowling Club. There will be prizes for the best Bloodys, including Best Bloody Mary and People’s Choice, which attendees will get to vote on. Food trucks will be on hand, and there will also be food tasting opportunities, Bloody Mary mixing opportunities, and music.

Tickets are $45 for general admission, which includes unlimited Bloody Marys and food samples, or $75 for VIP which includes early admission at 12:15pm and lunch from a food truck. It’s all happening at the SOMArts Center. 934 Brannan St. at 8th St.

This Friday September 18th launches six weeks of autumnal Oktoberfest celebrations at ~SCHROEDER’S~. The German festivities kick off with their block party on Friday the 18th, when Front Street will close and become a beer garden from 3pm to 8:30pm. There will be hearty German fare, live music, dancing, dirndls, and lots and lots of beer. The party is free and a $5 token will be available for purchase. Each weekend until October 24th will also offer special events, live music, and beer specials; check out the schedule and details here. 240 Front St. at Sacramento, 415-421-4778.