FutureBars, the group that represents a collection of SF cocktail havens including Rickhouse, Bourbon & Branch, Local Edition, and others, announced Wednesday that they will be transforming several of the bars into retail liquor stores in order to try to survive the pandemic.
Acknowledging that chef Anthony Strong pioneered the model locally, turning his restaurant Prairie quickly into a general store in late March that also sold some prepared food along with booze and wine, FutureBars partner Doug Dalton tells the Chronicle that it's time to make some strategic pivots like that one.
"With the constant moving of when we can open, we’ve been kind of stuck in this purgatory of hiring and bringing people back but not being able to do anything else,” Dalton tells the paper. “This was the most feasible option for us moving forward and it helps us keep our staff."
The bar group's North Beach outpost, Devil's Acre, is already in the process of becoming a new location of the group's upscale spirits store Cask, which has been a source of high-end liquor for at-home mixology for the last four months.
Per the Chronicle, the group's flagship speakeasy in the Tenderloin, Bourbon & Branch, as well as the subterranean Market Street bar Local Edition, will also be pivoting into retail stores. It's unclear what the plans are for the company's remaining locations.
Dalton says he's unhappy with state orders that have treated bars as "ancillary businesses" and as "less responsible places than restaurants," but at this point even indoor dining isn't permitted in San Francisco and it's far from clear when it will be.
What's becoming clear with each passing week, though, is that the SFbar landscape is potentially going to be a shadow of its former self when it finally gets to reopen, with many favorite spots gone and never to return.
Photo courtesy of FutureBars