Relaxed from spending a week off of going to bars in order to spike the Thanksgiving gravy with enough bourbon to kill Dennis Hopper, Barrespondent Drew dives right back into the San Francisco bar scene just in time for the peak drinking season.
Alas, yet another old familiar bar has changed hands, been gutted of everything but the support beams and completely redone. Following in the footsteps of places like Doctor Bombay’s, The Albion and Hush Hush (which recently reopened as a place called ‘Hush Hush’), progress has claimed another victim, destroying more than a few memories in the process.
And while we probably should feel thankful we don’t live somewhere like New York, where it seems like old neighborhood bars are being turned into yuppie snobbitoriums faster than you can say, “Oh my God, did you see Desperate Housewives last night?”, it’s still a shame to see old familiar places get flushed into the sewer to make way for some happening new ‘singles’ bar where you’ll be lucky to find a drink that doesn’t require financing to afford.
So it’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to the Inner Richmond’s Pat O’Shea’s Mad Hatter. Well, maybe our hearts aren’t that heavy. To be completely honest, we were never huge fans of Pat O’Shea’s to begin with. It was always just a little too bright, a little too loud and a lot too ‘frat’. But if you were in the inner Richmond and needed a place to catch a game and didn’t want to incur the dirty looks you’d probably get at Ireland 32 or The Abbey, O’Shea’s was a pretty good bet.
Unfortunately, it seems as though The Mad Hatter had a pretty bad habit of serving people who were underage. We personally remember at least two times walking past it and stopping briefly to notice the sign on the door that they’d had their license suspended for a few days for slinging hooch to the kiddies. Our guess is that they ran out of second chances and that their closing was anything but voluntary.
Anyway, a fair fondue to O’Shea’s, and hello to…
The ALPHA Bar and Lounge, on 5th and Geary, is a complete top-to-bottom gut job. From stem to stern, you will not find one single reminder of the place this used to be. TVs? Gone, Pool Tables? Gone, Guys in backward baseball caps? Well, Yes, but they’re everywhere. If you had any love for The Mad Hatter, then don’t come here because it will depress you.
Calling itself ‘A lounge for the senses’, Alpha tries just a little too hard to appeal to a segment of the population that we just don’t think is going to be that easily fooled into thinking they’re suddenly in SOMA or a hotel bar at Union Square. We suppose people in the Richmond need an overdesigned, dimly lit meat market as much as anywhere, but to take it to this degree just seems like overkill.
Service at Alpha was actually really good. The bartender and waitress were both really nice and seem to have high hopes for the place. But given the price of the drinks, the somewhat oppressive atmosphere and the constant nagging knowledge that you’re in the Richmond (no offense, in fact it’s actually a compliment if you think about it), I’m not sure if we share their optimism.
So if stylish scenes, pick up lines and kiwi-watermelon infused cosmos are your thing but you’re tired of heading all the way downtown for the experience, then by all means check out Alpha. But, if like us, you’d just as soon drink Night Train in the Cala Foods parking lot than watch rich idiots engage in mating rituals, then you may want to give Alpha O’Shea’s a pass.