Longtime Mission District punk-rock-sports-biker-dive bar Kilowatt has reopened under its new ownership team of ex-Bottom of the Hill and Thee Parkside bartenders, and here are some first-look pics at the new Kilowatt that will soon be a live music venue again.
The no-frills, 28-year-old Mission District dive Kilowatt closed this past fall, but it was not a permanent closure, and instead a changing of the guard. Mission Local reported in November that “A new group of bartenders from the popular Potrero Hill music venues Bottom of the Hill and Thee Parkside have already applied for ownership,” and previous Kilowatt owner Peter Athanas described the new team as “perfect” for the place. We learned who these new owners were in early December, when Hoodline reported that Kilowatt was approved for a live music permit to make the place back into the live music venue it had been in the 1990s and early 2000s.
And get ready for a shock — the new and improved Kilowatt reopened again last week “The Kilowatt is now open for business,” new Kilowatt co-owner Katie Rose tells SFist. While last week was a soft opening, the longtime dive bar is now once again open seven nights a week.
SFist took a look at the new redesign, which keeps many of the old Kilowatt elements still intact (yes there are still dart boards!). But there are also numerous new upgrades and enhancements.
Check out this mural of the new Kilowatt mascot, a subversive, martini-swilling version of the old Reddy Kilowatt character. “A friend of ours, John Carr painted that by hand,” Rose tells us. “He had a projector on a really tall ladder.”
“A lot of what we’re putting on the wall is Kilowatt history,” she adds. “Some of our favorite bands, collectively the three [new owners], our favorite bands have played here over the years. We’re still in the framing process, so we still have a bunch of stuff that we’d like to put up framed.”
Many of the posters are for Noise Pop shows of years' past, and that’s the shape of the live music scene soon coming back to the Kilowatt. “We’re going to have our official ‘Kilowatt returns’ party at the end of February,” Rose tells us. (Artists are not yet confirmed, but it’s going to coincide with Noise Pop’s 30th anniversary.)
“We’re teaming up with them to do a ‘Happy anniversary to Noise Pop-slash-Welcome back Kilowatt’ kind of thing” she says. “It makes sense because Kilowatt has such a history with Noise Pop."
For now, there are no-cover live DJ shows scheduled at Kilowatt every Friday and Saturday, with DJs spinning from the ‘Watt’s new sound booth that dons a mural by local artist Chelsea Wong. “We call that the bird’s nest,” Rose quips. “That’s technically the sound booth. That nest up here. We’re having Mission local artists do murals on the side of it.” The front will also feature a marquee of upcoming shows.
These “new” speakers seen above all work (though not the phonograph horn), and they’re part of Kilowatt’s new sound system. “My day job before all this was building and repairing guitar amps,” new co-owner Peter Nevin tells us. “I just had a big pile of hi-fi junk, and kind of wanted to tie it all together. We just wanted to make the bar a representation of shit that we like.”
And you’ll also see nods to Kilowatt's old motorcycle racing team. “We’re all long-term bartenders,” adds another new co-owner, Rick Eusey. “We really appreciate what has come from this bar, from the scene in the Mission, what Peter [Athanas] has done in the past. And we really want to pay tribute to that. We’re not trying to wash over what has been here and start anew, we’re trying to build on what’s already been here and keep that landscape.”
This is frankly a pretty exciting time for nightlife on that strip of 16th Street between Mission and Guerrero Streets. The former Esta Noche will once again be a queer-owned bar, as Mother Bar is opening in that spot this week, according to Mission Local. Meanwhile, the shuttered Giordano Brothers bar and restaurant has reopened as Rudi’s Sports Bar, which also very much retains the spirit of its former owner.
Certainly the larger Mission District is losing a number of storefronts, and many nightclub owners complain that people aren’t drinking like they used to since things have reopened in the late pandemic. But this new generation of Valencia-adjacent 16th Street bars is getting people to come out and drink, often by soaking in the nostalgia of the location’s bar that had been there for years prior.
Kilowatt is at 3160 16th Street (at Albion Street) now open Thursdays and Fridays 2 p.m. - 2 a.m. Saturday and Sundays Noon - 2 a.m., Monday-Wednesday, 4 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Image: Kilowatt Bar via Facebook