Gold Dust Lounge taps Historic Preservation Commission

February 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Friends and family of San Francisco's The Gold Dust Lounge are hoping they have found a way to prevent the drinking establishment full of city history from becoming just that -- history.

A contingent of the bar's supporters made a presentation before the city's Historic Preservation Commission today in an effort to gain support for classifying the Union Square lounge as a historic landmark.

The move aims to save the bar from being demolished to make way for a new tenant that wants both an adjacent two-floor retail space and the space housing the bar at 247 Powell St.

The bar's owners were presented with an eviction notice that will force it to vacate in early March, and a grassroots movement to save the landmark bar has been growing since news of the eviction broke in early January.

Even if the commission does not support the proposal to give the bar special status, the people behind the proposal say they can explore other avenues, such as getting the Board of Supervisors to take action.

According to Chris Ver Plank, a preservation historian who acted to save the Fairmont Hotel's Tonga Room when development threatened the tiki bar, he and local singer/songwriter Catherine Hill made their presentation before the commission assuming that the commission probably will not take action, he said.

"It's important to try that route rather than going above their heads with the Board of Supervisors," Ver Plank said, noting that the group believes they have "a lot of support" among the supervisors.

If anything, Hill's performance of her song "Save The Gold Dust Lounge" made commission history. Unlike Board of Supervisors meetings, during which local man Walter Paulson regularly serenades those present with relevant parodies of recognizable tunes, the commission meetings are usually straight business.

Lee Houskeeper, a publicist for the bar, said that several elected officials made an appearance at a news conference held at the bar on Jan. 19, including Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and Supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim.

Of the bar, Houskeeper said, "this isn't something where you create some kind of place where you recreate San Francisco history by putting up pictures. This is the real deal. This is why people come here."

Since its establishment in 1933, the bar has been frequented by local celebrities, including Steve McQueen, Janis Joplin, Herb Caen and Bing Crosby, who co-owned The Gold Dust in the 1950s.

The efforts to save the bar include a Facebook page and Twitter account, as well as a newly created Zazzle store, where supporters can purchase Save The Gold Dust T-shirts.

Should both the board and the commission fail to support the movement to save the bar, Houskeeper said that the group also plans to take legal action to slow down the eviction process.

"We're not just a bunch of hippies banking on good luck and good fortune," he said.


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