There are several other local spots of various origins and character – the long-time Kate O’Brien’s on Howard Street, the kinda-Irish Cheiftain, and the recent Showdown on Sixth Street, plus maybe more. But I’m not sure if anyone would call them home.
No place can really be a genuine Neighborhood without an honest-to-god Neighborhood Bar.
The landmark Hotel Utah bar at Fourth and Bryant is a SOMA icon, an exemplar dive-bar that thankfully has not been “improved” for decades. It has survived changing times thanks to a landlord willing to accept a reasonable rent (while gradually converting the SRO rooms upstairs into a hip pensione), and booking local music nightly into its small performance space. The biker bar-ish staff keep things down to earth, and the kitchen offers tasty chow. Its customers are some undefinable mix of locals, oldish hipsters, and whatever comes in the door (even a few techies now and then). Let’s hope it is immortal.
I’ve spent more total hours of my life in San Francisco in the neighborhood bars/cafés of North Beach and SOMA (and some other places) than anywhere else. So I have to postulate that no place can really be a genuine Neighborhood without an honest-to-god Neighborhood Bar.
The planner/analyst in me requires a definition in order to address a topic, so here it is: a neighborhood bar/café is a modest storefront business offering beer/wine at least, if not a full bar, with a distinct personality and a core clientele of regulars from the local community and beyond who ‘hang’ and socialize there, that has been that way for at least five years – usually much longer.
Eugene Coleman’s Canon Kip was the penultimate realization of “social capital.” It was a place of many positive purposes, a network of many caring individuals and organizations. It was an inspiration for many spirits of all ages - it was the glue that held a community together. It was the Heart of our SOMA of that generation. Bishop Swing never grasped or valued this. And we have never been able to fully replace it.
The Death of Canon Kip Community House
The San Francisco Episcopal Diocese fired Gene Coleman in 1985, closed Canon Kip in 1989 one year after its 100th anniversary, and finally tore the building down in 1992. It was ultimately replaced with low-income supportive housing, the Canon Barcus Community House built and operated by Episcopal Community Services that opened in 2002.
Once upon a time in SOMA, Canon Kip Community House was the heart of the South of Market... and Gene Coleman was the heart of Canon Kip.
I’ll never forget my first visit to Canon Kip at Eighth and Natoma Streets early in 1978. It looked like a drab-green concrete warehouse and I couldn’t spot a front door. A plain metal double door down the alley looked like a service entrance. I gave it a try – and walked like Alice through the Looking Glass into a wonderful place and time: a genuine “Community Center.”