Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Almost time for Last Call

Business Briefs

Kevin Harrington tending bar at Men's Room, which he is in the process of buying and renaming Last Call. Photo: Raymond Flournoy
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The new year will bring changes to Castro bar Men's Room (3988 18th Street), with a new owner, Kevin Harrington, and a new name, Last Call.

Harrington, who is openly gay, is very familiar with the Men's Room current climate and clientele, having worked there as a bartender for the last eight years. After current owner out lesbian Lita Byrd announced her intention to retire, Harrington started the long process of purchasing the business and transferring the permits over to his name. He currently estimates that he will be the official new owner by mid-January.

While Harrington enjoys the cozy, familiar tone of the bar and has no plans to remodel or change the focus of the bar, he also believes that the name "Men's Room" has been a barrier for some people considering visiting the bar. Harrington says that the bar's customers have always included a mix of men and women, straight and gay. He hopes the new name "Last Call" will better convey that welcoming and inclusive spirit. He is currently working on logos and a new sign that will go up in early 2009.

Starting a new business during the current economic downturn would be a daunting prospect for many people, but Harrington notes that the bar has seen little decrease in business recently. He theorizes that people will always budget a certain amount for socializing with friends, and so the bar business has not been hit as hard by the economic slowdown.

Once the transition has been finalized, Harrington plans to host a combination "grand re-opening" and retirement send-off for Byrd. Specifics will be announced in January.

More closures

In November, this column announced the opening of six Castro storefronts, while also noting the closing of two longtime Castro favorites, All-American Boy and Sumi. This month the ratio has swung decidedly in the negative direction, with three more Castro stores announcing their intention to close.

Restaurant Frisee (2367 Market Street) closed its doors on December 8. The creation of brothers Brett and Nathan Niebergall, Frisee opened in September 2007 with the mission of serving fresh, local fare at affordable prices.

The brothers report that business was healthy until October of this year at which point their numbers began to drop. Facing even tougher forecasts for January, February, and March – months that are slow for restaurants even during economically healthy times – the brothers made the decision to shut Frisee and concentrate on developing their next restaurant project. They are quiet on specifics about their new restaurant, but they are currently looking for a larger space within San Francisco with a goal of opening in 2010. 

The Niebergalls say that since announcing the closing of Frisee they have received a tremendous amount of support and positive responses from the community. They invite readers who would like updates about their new restaurant to contact them at

Sui Generis: Vintage (218 Church Street) co-owner Miguel Lopez prefers not to use the word "closing" when discussing his Church Street location. Instead, he and partner Gabriel Yanez refer to it as a consolidation of their two stores into the single storefront at 2265 Market Street. In fact, they are currently planning to perform renovations on the Market Street store that will greatly expand the floor space there, allowing it to accommodate the inventory from both stores.

Over the rest of the month they will be conducting an end-of-year sale at Sui Generis:  Vintage with the goal of vacating the space by January 1. Renovation of the Market Street store is planned for February, with a re-opening celebration to follow.

Looking forward, Lopez and Yanez are also hoping to reopen a second store in a different neighborhood. The new store will allow them to expand beyond men's wear into the women's wear market.

Another Castro boutique, T-Shop (4251 18th Street), closed its doors on December 19. The tiny boutique specialized in men's accessories and bags, and the owner (who asked not to be named) reports that the economic downturn hit his business very hard. His intention was to liquidate his entire inventory, and then consider his next steps after the holidays. While he intends to open another shop at some point, his plan is to wait at least a year or two until the economic environment improves.

Party like it's 2009

Readers planning to welcome the new year in the Castro have many options. Most bars and restaurants will feature the usual New Year's Eve accoutrements, including balloons, noisemakers, and opportunities for regrettable dating choices. But a handful of special events are also on the calendar:

Mecca (2029 Market Street) is hosting a "Studio 54" New Year's Eve party, featuring DJs and live entertainment throughout the evening. Reservations are $65 per person, and include dinner, champagne toast, and party favors. For more details, contact Mecca at (415) 621-7000.

Lookout (3600 16th Street) invites the public to its "New Year's Eve Ball Drop!" party. The cover is $7, and entertainment includes DJs Luke Fry and Stefanie Phillips .

The Bar on Castro (456 Castro Street) is featuring performer Hoku Mama Swamp and DJ work by Joshua J , Initials P. B. , and Juanita More at its "Booty Call Wednesday" party on New Year's Eve.

For a stay-in alternative, home-bartender and podcaster Mr. Martini has launched a new home party concept that he calls Cocktail Seminars. The first offering is Cocktail 101, in which Mr. Martini (a.k.a. Tim Morrison) brings his portable bar to teach a party of up to 12 people about the history of four classic cocktails: the martini, old fashioned, margarita, and cosmopolitan. The interactive class teaches the proper way to shake a cocktail, and then allows partygoers to put their newfound knowledge to work.

"Tuition" for the seminar runs $40 per person, and the host needs to supply the alcohol because of permit issues. For parties with eight or more guests, the $40 host fee is waived. For more details and to reserve a date contact Mr. Martini at or visit for more information.

Contact Raymond Flournoy at

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