Yes, it’s true, the great hofbrau that is known to native San Franciscans as Lefty O’Doul’s, on Union Square, is moving out soon. Yes. It’s due to a rent hike. It’s very rare these days in San Francisco if a long-time business moves their location on just a whim. And the same landlord that booted the equally famous and well-loved watering hole, the Gold Dust Lounge five years ago, has struck again. They own the property Lefty’s has occupied my entire lifetime, founded in 1958 (Lefty’s, not me) at 333 Geary, in what was once the St. Francis Theater.
(Various photos of Lefty O’Douls signage on Geary Street. Photo credits go to Internet photos, and all are subject to copyright)
Today there were stories online that made it seem that the restaurant may close and not relocate, as was reported earlier this weekend. News today came from Hoodline that, indeed, there is more to this story than a peaceful end-of-lease business relocation. The bar’s manager was quoted in the news the other say that he and his staff were in negotiations with two locations in the Union Square area, and that they would peacefully move on without a dispute with the landlord.
Now one wonders, as the landlord sounds like he may renovate and reopen the place.
It is the historic Lefty’s that I will always fondly recall. It may look like a dive on the outside, and to some degree it has some dive qualities, but it will always be the place dad and Gramps took me to after a day in the City. A hofbrau style corned beef and cabbage plate, or turkey leg with dressing, or a great big sandwich, with atmosphere up to the eyes, to this city kid was always a big treat.
The bar has been around since 1958. Once, for many years in its history, a sign outside proudly advertised The Great Al Rik in the piano bar. (Lefty’s boasts three bars inside its doors). My college roommate and I brought many an out of town visitor to sing along with Al back in the 80’s. We worked in an office down on Market Street, and Lefty’s was a natural stop over before heading home. She did not exactly love the corned beef as much as I did, but we always ate some dinner before drinking at Lefty’s.
Lefty O’Doul was born in San Francisco in 1897, and lived a long storied baseball career before passing at the age of 60. He was laid to rest in a Colma cemetary, along with many other great San Fransicans. He was a mighty force in American baseball, and his history can be found in more detail here.
As we await the final word on the fate of yet another venerable San Francisco Institution that natives still to this day bring out of town visitors to, we will have to see how the game plays. The property owner has now declared their ownership of the business name, and all memorabilia on the premises. This would make it difficult for the staff to relocate under the same name.
As usual in San Francisco, more of this story will become clearer in the days to come. If they end up ruining it, won’t that be a shame? And what would Lefty say?