I bet you didn't think you'd be reading this news this week: A new nightclub is having its soft opening (in the midst of the pandemic) on Friday in Chinatown, and it's attempting to harken back to the glitz of 1950s-era nightlife in the neighborhood.
It's called Lion's Den, and one of the co-owners is Steven Lee, a co-owner of the famed Sam Wo Restaurant. The upscale nightclub, with interior design by Anna Lee Jew who designed Mister Jiu's, is making its debut this weekend at 57 Wentworth Place — that's an alley between Jackson and Washington Streets, between Grant Avenue and Kearny, around the corner from Z&Y Restaurant.
As Lee tells the Chronicle today, "Chinatown needs a resurgence. We’re hoping the lounge will bring in new customers who will shop in Chinatown, too."
Obviously it won't be a fully functioning nightspot as long as COVID is still around — the soft opening will look more like a piano lounge situation with cocktails and bento boxes served at socially distanced tables, with a few tables also outside. On the reservations page, you can see the layout of the rooms and choose where you'd want to sit — and due to COVID restrictions, everyone has to purchase a bento box (from nearby restaurant RM 212) with their drinks.
Lion's Den has a piano lounge room that currently seats 28 at seven tables, a bar with a couple of small tables, and sidewalk seating at four tables for three — 12 seats total. Ultimately, post-pandemic, the place has a capacity for 180 people, and there are plans to have live entertainment three nights a week. The idea is a "live bands and showgirls" retro vibe, recalling an era when Frank Sinatra used to party in the neighborhood when he came to town.
The cocktail menu pays tributes to long-gone venues in the neighborhood, like Forbidden City and Twin Dragon — and they were created by Mister Jiu's bar manager Garrett Marks.
"We think the future of Chinatown will be more food, more entertainment, more unique cocktail lounges like there were in the 1950s," Lee tells the Chronicle. "Everything comes full circle."
There's a baller aspect to the concept: VIP memberships, which are allegedly already sold out at $3,000 apiece but something tells me more will become available.
If San Francisco succeeds in moving to the "Orange" tier on March 23, that will mean Lion's Den can allow even more people inside at 50% capacity. But it is a maximum of four people per table for now — and technically all four people are supposed to be from the same household if you're indoors.