The folks behind the six-year-old Bodega in North Beach are soft-opening KEY KLUB in Lower Nob Hill’s former Hopwater Distribution this week, starting Friday December 10th. Bodega partners Lalo Luevano and Paria Sedigh are known for their natty wines and neighborhood-friendly focus, and have brought on Cellarmaker’s Sean Halpin to spearhead the beer program and some operations. Key Klub will primarily be focused on natural wines, with some hard-to-find selections joining the list, but they’re excited to have some fresh, unique, and local beers on draft as well (but they won’t have as many taps running as Hopwater used to, focusing more on freshness instead of quantity).
Like Bodega, there will be some of their quality charcuterie and cheese offerings and tasty small plates, but they’re also going to be expanding the kitchen offering here, serving more-substantial dishes like a flat-iron steak au poivre with frites. During the pandemic, they did a bunch of pop-up takeout dishes at Bodega, and will be putting some of them into play here. More shareable and family-style dishes will be coming in the new year with the grand opening—they’re just warming up the engine this month since it’s a funky time to open a new business.
The original Key Klub dates back to the 1950s (it closed in 1987), with a vintage neon blade sign out front. Crossroads of the world! The team has replaced the sign’s surrounding bulbs, but don’t plan on restoring the neon part, although they did create a Key Klub neon sigh for inside. You’ll see a bunch of the original brick, and they kept the copper top bar. You’ll also see some rabbit art, paying homage to Harvey the Herder, an extraordinary rabbit that used to be a regular at the Key Klub, profiled in Life magazine in 1954. You can’t make this shit up.
They really invested in the sound, and installed a couple Klipsch La Scala speakers, the kind you’d find in a hi-fi bar—the sound is reportedly incredible. With the expansive space, there will be more room here for people to hang out and have dates and find a more-intimate vibe, or have friends swing by and join their table. The owners didn’t want to completely overhaul the space, however, and opted to just add some modern finishes because their lease is a limited run: the building is going to be majorly overhauled in about four years or so, adding new residential units above (there will still be a retail/restaurant space on the ground floor). But they’re excited to be part of this unique neighborhood pocket of businesses, and have been looking to expand for a while. The grand opening will be in January, come by for the soft opening for now. Hours are Tue-Sat 4pm-11pm. 850 Bush St. at Taylor.
Detail shot behind the bar near the taps. Photo courtesy of Key Klub.