The bar formerly known as the Elbo Room soft-opened as the Valencia Room this week, and the upstairs dance space has its grand reopening with a “pop-open” party Saturday night.
That beloved bar at 647 Valencia Street has had significant trials and tribulations these last five years. Most of you know how the Elbo Room was handed its walking papers in 2015 so the building owners could put up condos, and while the condo plans fell through, the Elbo Room still moved to Jack London Square. Topsy’s owner Steve Schefsky stepped in to fill the void (Eater notes that the new ownership team considered naming the place “Condos” in a tongue-in-cheek reference to previous plans for the joint) and we learned this month that the reborn bar would be called Valencia Room. The Valencia Room soft-opened this week, and as the Chronicle found out, they now take credit cards. SFist got a chance to pop in and see some of the newly remodeled areas that aren’t open to the public yet.
The new neon sign went up this past Saturday, and it has taken some ribbing on social media. But the place otherwise seems largely unchanged to the casual drinker, save for some new art, furniture and lighting.
The upstairs dance floor is not currently open, but will be christened at Saturday at the Valencia Room: Pop-Open party, beginning downstairs at 6 p.m., moving upstairs at 9 p.m., with a $10 cover upstairs after 10 p.m. The Space Cowboys’ DJ Sol breaks in the new dance floor, along with DJ Seven, Miguel Alvarado, Brent Northey, Chuy Fresno, Erik Love, Hella Becca, Shiva Tiffany, and Rolando. The renovated Void Acoustics sound system is decked with five times the number speakers the old Elbo Room dance floor had.
We don’t normally take pictures in bathrooms, but just look at these new upstairs bathrooms, with their vintage magazine collage art and perfectly sanitary sinks and commodes.
The downstairs bar area retains the classic Elbo Room-style church pews and linoleum floor. There is some new lighting behind the bar, and some additional beveled wood details have been added to the bar and decor. But it’s probably going to be dark when you’re drinking there, so the changes might not jump out at you.
Your old pinball area at the back of the downstairs bar remains intact.
The Valencia Room ownership team had a fine line to walk here, trying to pay homage to its predecessor that we know and love, but without completely ripping off what the Elbo Room had built there over 28 years. We can name a few reincarnated Valencia Street bars who made no attempt at acknowledging the history that made their physical space so popular. The Valencia Room still feels like a neighborhood bar, and respectfully maintains the Elbo Room tradition. It’s sad that Matt Shapiro’s old bar got elbowed out to Oakland, and some have seen fit to bellyache about the Valencia Room’s new name or neon sign. But the bottom line is that we’ve avoided the loss of a cherished music venue, and a trip to the Valencia Room really does evoke the feeling of a comeback story come complete.