Gold Dust Lounge
Over the objections of the owners of the building in which the Gold Dust Lounge resides, in February the operators of the 46-year old bar at 247 Powell Street requested landmark status for the establishment in the hopes of thwarting an eviction, and conversion of the space into retail, scheduled for December .
From the Planning Department with respect to the application:

The Department does not believe that the analysis demonstrates significance of the GoldDust Lounge under any of the National Register Criteria that would justify its recognition as a City Landmark.

The Department recognizes that the Gold Dust Lounge is an important local business and gathering spot of many locals and visitors. Unfortunately, Article 10 Landmark designation, in this case, is not the appropriate tool to protect what is valued most –the continued operation of the bar. The Department does not believe that Article 10 designation of the Gold Dust Lounge would result in a positive outcome for the parties involved.

If the designation were to move forward, only the physical features associated with the Gold Dust Lounge could be protected. The lounge could be repurposed for another use, such as retail, as long as these physical features were retained and respected. As indicated by Mr. VerPlanck’s documentation, the Gold Dust lounge could not be relocated without impacting its historic integrity; therefore, should the owners find another location, the designated physical features could not be removed from the current location.

On Wednesday, San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission is expected to affirm the Department’s findings.
Consideration to initiate Landmark designation for the Gold Dust Lounge []

19 thoughts on “A Non-Historic Win For The Owners Of 247 Powell Street”
  1. Janis Joplin throws up in a place and then some people try to claim it is a city landmark. Only in San Francisco.

  2. The only in SF part, to me, is that both parties could have signed a lease and then the lessor tries to legally execute a clause of that lease and the lessee tries, and at least temporarily succeeds, in thumbing it’s nose at the lease, not because they have any legal rationale, but just because they choose to ignore the parts of the lease they don’t happen to like.

  3. Note to all landlords out there: this is why many people distrust you. The public landscape is in owners’ control but many owners are only interested in private profits, not in the impact they have on public life. The owners are within their rights, of course, but renting out property is in part a social service. An art gallery selling Picassos and Miros, and the divey bar next door to it, do more for San Francisco’s civic life than another midrange clothing chain.

  4. If maintaining this storefront as it appears is an important “social service”, then the taxpayer should foot the bill, not a private owner.

  5. This entire thing is dripping with only in SF.
    The landlords have no bleeding heart right to prop up some cheesy bar simply because people have a hard on for nothing ever changing anywhere ever.
    The bar lost its lease. Life goes on.

  6. Well, one thing is certain, there’s absolutely nothing “only in SF” about another Express store. Congratulations, you’ve won again.

  7. How has anyone won?
    Nothing lasts forever. Are you telling me you are for the SF BOS deciding what kinds of stores open where ?
    There is a place like that – its called disneyland.

  8. Tough situation here. Building owners just signed a 3 year lease, but put in an early termination clause if they found a single tenant for the whole downstairs.
    Business owners probably thought they had dealt with them for a long time and so the building owner wouldn’t screw them, so they didn’t read the lease carefully. Only one of the three downstairs spaces was vacant, so they probably figured the building owner would not kick out two long time tenants. They were wrong.
    I would never have agreed to a term like that and would have made the landlord kick me out with no tenant at all or remove the clause. The landlord never would have terminated a long term tenant with no substitute tenant in place. They could have easily removed that provision. And if the landlord refused, that would have been handwriting on the wall as to what they were going to try to do and the business owners should have left. In short, it was stupid for them to agree to it or not to take it seriously.
    In short, the business owners were stupid. The landlord sees two 80+ year old owners and doesn’t have much confidence in their staying power.
    It’s just business. Don’t feel sorry for anyone: the business owners could have easily protected themselves against this.
    My commercial landlords tried to put in all sorts of crazy clauses, but I took them all out. I have options to renew everything when my leases expire.
    I’ve been with my building owners for a long time and have a great relationship with them, but I only trust my lease.

  9. Actually, Bob, there are plenty of codes about what kind of businesses can open in various locations. It’s called zoning, and it’s how a city maintains its character.

  10. Zoning is how a city maintains its character? Thats rich.
    Zoning is for designating permitted uses in a specific area, NOT for enforcing stasis/dictating what stores selling what goods should occupy a space.
    It’s pretty awesome that there are people who see zoning and immediately think “protection” and those who see if and think “encouraging”
    SF is chock full of those who see “protection”
    I cannot think of a worse fate that the SF government mandating that a certain business needs to operate at a certain site.
    The entire city would be full of organic, lesbian identified, dwarf run artisanal thimble emporiums

  11. What’s so special about this place besides the fact that it’s more than 5 years old and isn’t a chain? Does it have some kind of local cult following? I’m honestly asking – have never been there so don’t get the appeal. Because from online pictures, it looks like any Union Square tourist trap. Am I missing something?

  12. “Does it have some kind of local cult following?”
    It is hard to tell whether the crowd is local but that place is often packed on Friday and Saturday evenings. And the only reason I ever go there is on the insistence of a local. You often see tourists in there but that’s no surprise considering the location.
    Tonga Gold concept #1: the band on the raft alternates between Polynesian kitsch and a “by request” piano band.

  13. On the one hand, I don’t think the city wins when smaller establishments are eliminated in favor of some ‘big thing’. In the long run, the smaller places will probably provide more vitality, more employment, etc.
    On the other hand, if every arrangement has the possibility of turning into a drawn-out and expensive legal battle, and every contract requires extensive legal work, it’s no surprise that landlords will prefer larger tenants. Which doesn’t help upstarts or established tenants, either.

  14. The foundation of our economy is built on property rights. I have no sympathy for the GD owners or the bad leasing broker they listened to, though I will miss that bar. It was fun.

  15. Tonga Gold concept #2: you can still get tropical drinks, but if you order them with whiskey instead of rum then they’re two dollars cheaper.

  16. Here’s to more than one renewal option. Sad to see the place go, but that’s a bad business move by the GD owners. Can’t blame the landlords for going after credit and profits. That’s why you buy real estate. If the bar have a cult following they can open somewhere else – it’s been done before.

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