Hoorah! I wasn't even aware that crusty, well loved, 48-year-old North Beach watering hole Specs' was in any danger of closing, but it turns out it may have been, as the Chronicle's Esther Mobley is reporting. And thanks to it being one of nineteen businesses approved last month as the city's first Legacy Businesses, the landlord just extended the bar a new ten-year lease, meaning it's safe at least until 2026, despite the advanced age of longtime owner Richard “Specs” Simmons.
Simmons gets thrown an annual birthday party at the bar which just happened a few weeks ago, on the occasion of his 88th birthday. And happily, he and daughter Elly Simmons could celebrate the bar's new lease as well, after some lingering tension around the previous lease being up in July.
Elly Simmons tells the Chronicle that while the landlord did raise the rent a bit, "It could have been a lot worse."
Specs is exactly the type of landmark, longstanding neighborhood institution that the Legacy Business program, voted in as Prop J last November, is meant to protect. Under the program, businesses that are 30 years old or older can apply for grants of up to $500 per full time employee per year, and if awarded legacy status landlords are given additional grants of up to $4.50 per square foot of leased space if they see fit to extend long-term leases to the business.
Among the other businesses inducted into the program in August were Lone Star Saloon, Two Jack’s Nik’s Place Seafood, Toy Boat Dessert Cafe, Precita Eyes Muralists Association, Pacific Cafe, Gilmans Kitchens and Baths, Community Boards, Cliff's Variety in the Castro, Doc's Clock in the Mission, and the Roxie Theater. Up to 300 businesses can be nominated each year, and we know the city is still working through a backlog of applications.
Writing in the Chronicle, Mobley makes the case for Specs' essentialness in its neighborhood "because of its longevity, because of its inexhaustible permanent collection of tchotchkes (some educational, some scatological) and mostly, I suspect, because it still provides vivid access to a North Beach whose existence flickers more faintly each year."
It's true besides Vesuvio and City Lights Bookstore across the street, there's very little left of the North Beach that belonged to artists and bohemians where you could still get a simple drink for a couple of bucks and not be bothered by venture capitalist types and hordes of bros. Long live Specs'!
Previously: Specs' In North Beach Turns 48 On Sunday; Learn More About The Storied Dive Bar And Mini-Museum