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