San Francisco is a city that drinks. No matter where you live in this town there is always a great place you can get to (and more importantly, from) without having to get in a car or even a cab if you want to go out and have a few with your friends or meet a new one. If there is one thing we tend to do well, it's bars. Yet tonight I went out to dinner with my friend Kristi and on the way home we decided to stop in at the newly relocated Lush Lounge to see what it looked and felt like. The horror. I haven't felt so dismayed since I looked into the reincarnation of The Owl Tree- which I've never stepped foot in since Bobby died- it's just too sad to see what it's become.
The Lush Lounge originally opened at Polk and Post in the space that long ago a version of the Motherlode- one of the City's more interesting trans bars that got folded into the DIVAS complex now residing across the street. The Motherlode was a fascinating joint, much more fun than the disgusting Aunt Charlie's and unlike Aunt Charlie's, the stench of spilt semen and urine didn't abuse your nose when you walked through the front door. But for one reason or another, it closed and the space was eventually re-opened by a guy named Kenny and his partners (who later opened up Vertigo down the block) as the Lush.
The Lush was originally conceived as a piano bar, something Polk was sorely missing since the demise of The Swallow in the 90's. There was an upstairs stage where bands like Lee and the Press-On Nails would give incredibly entertaining shows. It was actually the first place I ever saw Leslie Presley, who makes Lavay Smith look like chopped liver, and that ain't an easy thing to do. But the Lush ran into problems, the music stopped and the bar evolved into a predominantly gay bar that was straight-friendly and became the anchor for what came to be the renaissance of lower Polk Street, with the Hemlock, Blur, Vertigo, R Bar, O'Reilly's, McTeague's and others all following its lead. The drinks were good, the people were nice, and while there were TVs in the bar (anathema to me), they were always showing old movies- not ESPN or some bullshit like that. It was a nice place on a shitty corner where anyone could feel at home and have a good time.
A few months ago they posted a sign saying they would be moving across the street into a place formerly occupied by a skate shop among other things. I have no idea why. Probably another greedy landlord wanted to jack up their rent to some obscene level now that they were successful and the owners of Lush probably said "fuck you" and they saw the empty place across the street which was bigger and said "let's start over." Then they closed. The Lush was stripped to the walls. Across the street the windows were papered over with a sign announcing their eventual relocation.
Every once in awhile I'd walk by, see the doors open as they were renovating the joint and think to myself "looks good- nice, big place, exposed brick walls- looks like they're doing it right."
Tonight the reality was a dismal slap in the face. Where to start? Two large-ass TVs above the bar tuned to ESPN and some other lame-ass sports channel. The music was Gene Loves Jezebel followed by a bunch of 80s bands most people never heard of and couldn't care less about. The decor looks like the Bigfoot Lodge (whose continued success confounds me to no end) crossed with a Conde Nast ski resort. In two words- it sucks and it looks like a douche bar. Even worse, the clientele was like an older version of R Bar or the Hemlock- straight, drinking Coronas and PBRs, looking to get laid. Having recently spent a couple of hours last Saturday night at what must be the douchiest bar in all of San Francisco (not by choice, mind you)- the Republic, I won't say I was disgusted, but I was not at all amused. Is this the future of Lower Polk/ Tendernob? I hope not.
Another great SF bar bites the dust. Too bad. So raise a glass to the death of the Lush Lounge as it was- for it has now joined the ever-increasing list of joints that "used to be." As for me, I guess I'll go back to the Geary Club next time (at least when Lillian or June are there because the other woman is a fat, old, rude bitch and I always go across the street to Whiskey Thieves when I see her behind the bar). Yeah- the selection of booze isn't what I'd like (not like I'm picky), but the people are real, the drinks are cheap, and it still has the feel of the neighborhood. Cheers.