Pop’s Bar has been fixture of the City’s Mission district for decades–a straightforward, neighborhood, workingman’s bar. Its backstory is legendary. The story goes that Carl Joseph Saxsenmeier, aka Pops, was a bootlegger who also operated a “clubhouse” on the side during Prohibition. That clubhouse was the inspiration behind his eponymous bar, which he opened to a thirsty public promptly after the repeal of the 21st Amendment. Over time, bar ownership changed hands every decade or so, but it has been continuously operating as Pop’s for over 80 years. As one might expect, time had taken its toll on the building when it was purchased by its new owners, Michael Krouse and Tom Tierney. Their goal was straightforward: refresh the interior and, in doing so, retell the story of Pop’s legendary heritage for their 21st Century patrons. But do so without pretense or a hyper-gentrified design. We couldn’t have agreed more.
When projects have such a great history, we think it’s best to treat their renovations with a gentle hand. The ravages of time had roughed up Pop’s edges, but the bones of a great bar were there, the edges simply needed to be smoothed out. An overhaul of the entire interior look and feel would have been incongruous with the workingman spirit that was integral to the bar’s history. So we focused only on the elements that were absolutely necessary to renovate, leaving the rest alone. However, even the minor renovations had to take their cues from Pop’s past. The new bar is designed in a simple, honest Streamline Moderne style, a cousin of the more ornate Art Deco style that was common in the 1930’s. Existing wood windows, long covered over, were reinstalled, and new seating put in, and the space was brought up to current building codes. But that’s essentially it.
Noticeable are the elements that were not changed. The flooring remains a quirky pink and black linoleum, the exterior paint retains its signature turquoise hue and York Street graffiti wall and the classic neon sign has been brought back to its former glowing glory.
The art program curated by Michael Krouse tells the history of the place, from its Prohibition origins through its most recent punk rock iteration. On these walls, he highlights San Francisco’s and the Mission’s own history as well, and in doing so adds his own chapter to the evolving story that is Pop’s Bar.
POP’S BAR- San Francisco
Location: 2800 24th Street, San Francisco, CA, 94110