Hemlock Tavern's closing is microcosm of music venues all over SF

Byby Kate Larsen via KGO logo
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
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A new condo development will bring the closure of a San Francisco staple for live alternative music.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A longtime San Francisco concert venue is closing to make way for condos. More than 15,000 bands have played at Hemlock Tavern on Polk Street, but the bar and small music venue will soon be torn down so that new housing can be built.

"It's sad. Now that this and Kimos and Red Devil is gone, I don't think I'll have anywhere to play," said Hemlock Tavern regular, Chris Carcinogen.

When Hemlock first opened in 2001, Carcinogen would come and play his electric bass guitar with punk and noise rock bands. Now 17 years later, he's soaking up the last suds before the bar is demolished and converted to a 54-unit mixed-use condo building. "You know ever since I moved here, everyone has always been like, it was better then, it was better here, it was better there. I think change is just what happens," said Carcinogen.

"We provide people an avenue into San Francisco that allows for adventurous music to meet adventurous fans," explained Mikel Ross, who started working at Hemlock as the fill-in sound guy. Now, Ross is the manager, that is, until the bar closes on October 6th. "Hopefully some people will get the idea that this is a vacuum that needs to be filled and they'll make a new space for adventurous music to happen."

RELATED: Hemlock Tavern closing, will be replaced by condo complex

Down in the Mission, another bar and music venue, is worried about the shrinking San Francisco music scene. "We are losing something pretty important with the Hemlock," said Matt Shapiro who is the co-owner of the famed Elbo Room on Valencia Street.

The owners of their building also want to convert the space into condos, but Shapiro says he hopes to renew their lease in January. "I'm like, well maybe I'm the outcast now who doesn't belong here. I don't know. I mean I still love the city, I still love this place, I still love you know, the music."

Shapiro opened up a second Elbo Room in Oakland this past March, where he says much of the music scene is shifting.

As for the Hemlock Tavern, the developers reportedly want to reopen the bar inside the new condo building, but with different management and owners and likely a very different scene.