"The Saloon," Wikipedia says, "is the oldest bar in San Francisco, opened in 1863, and also the only bar to survive the 1906 Earthquake." The bar itself says it was opened Oct. 8, 1861, apparently as "Wagner's Beer Hall" (sfweekly), and this seems to be the more reliable date. I've found no word on when it became officially named "The Saloon." I have read elsewhere that it is considered to be the 6th oldest bar in the United States, however I would refer to Brookston's fine list of the oldest bars in America, which places it 34th.
outsidelands). The Old Ship is not a contender by this standard, as it reverted to the original name only in 1999. And if places like The Saloon and Little Shamrock had stretches under other names, the oldest consistent name might belong to one of the other bars established shortly after the great fire, such as John's Grill or House of Shields, both of which were founded in 1908.
Personally, I am willing to overlook a few years under different names, brief interruptions (longer during prohibition), but I feel that to be the same "bar," the current business has to be in the same basic physical structure as the past versions. Thus I agree with those who consider "The Saloon" to be the oldest in the city.
It certainly looks the part, and does not suffer from over indulgent maintenance and beautification. It is very much a dive, and pours the cheap, strong drinks of a dive. It is owned by Myron Mu, who made a living as a French horn player before taking over for his father, who bought the place in the 1950s. It features live music 7 days a week, and maintains a long-time reputation as the best blues club in the city. At the time that I visited it with a couple friends on a Tuesday evening it was fairly dead. But the evident age of the place, the temporarily silent stage area, and the enticing divey-ness all lay in silent testimony to many rollicking times and amusing stories to be heard.
Est. Oct 8, 1861 (as Wagner's Beer Hall)
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