Purple Onion Comedy Club forced to close down


The North Beach club is where some of the biggest names honed their skills before they made it big, but like many of San Francisco's institutional bars and clubs, it's about to become another victim of this tough economy.

"The best game is a perfect game when no one ever hits the ball, which means you're watching a game of catch for three-and-a-half hours," said comedian Graham Wilson on stage Wednesday night.

It's the same stage where Woody Allen got his start. The Purple Onion Comedy Club in North Beach has also helped launch the careers of Phyllis Diller, the Smothers Brothers and Richard Pryor.

"I'm a baby sitter... that's great... at least that's what we tell his wife," said comedian Aurora Simcovich.

But after 60 years, the building is being bought and club owner Mario Ascione, known to give young comedians a chance, has been asked to leave.

"I don't know. A better day is going to come," said Ascione.

The pending sale adds to the number of iconic downtown bars falling to the wayside. In March, the Gold Dust Lounge shut down after almost 80 years near Union Square. The Tosca Café in North Beach is also being asked to vacate, and upstairs above the Purple Onion is barber Bill Sario who says he cuts Francis Ford Coppola's hair.

"After 48 years, the only thanks I get is 'Get out and don't come back,'" said Sario.

The realtor representing the new buyer of the Purple Onion's building says the asking price was just under $2 million and the owner of The Purple Onion and the barber shop are being asked to leave by the end of September.

Behind the laughs are plenty of these are plenty of tears.

Late Wednesday, the realtor representing the new owner said their intent is to restore the building and keep the comedy club, possibly under the same name. Ascione and Sario, however, will likely be moving on.

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