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High Spirits & Legacy Bars


Over the last 40 years, San Francisco has transitioned from the Summer of Love to the center of tech. Yet over the same period, certain neighborhood establishments have managed to stay relevant even as the city changes drastically around them. To learn how San Francisco’s legacy bars offer cultural continuity in an ever-changing city, CREW SF’s Rising Leaders committee invited the San Francisco Chronicle’s real estate reporter, J.K. Dineen, to share stories from his book, “High Spirits: The Legacy Bars of San Francisco.”


First things first: “High Spirits” is not a guidebook on where to get wasted in San Francisco (sorry!). Rather, it’s an anthropological study of the city as viewed through the bars recognized by San Francisco Heritage for significant historic and cultural value.


Dineen’s talk ranged from architecture and history to stories of owners taking shots of ouzo and regulars drinking with their dead cats in tow. While entertaining, the funny stories contained an undertone of sadness; the older crowd that Dineen got to know while writing “High Spirits” had been largely pushed out by San Francisco’s soaring cost of living, and several of the bars closed while the book was being written. Dineen believes that this trend is sad but inevitable; as the cost of land and rent rises, landlords lease to new tenants who can keep up with market rates and old tenants are forced to close shop.


While we may be losing a sense of community and a non-traditional venue for history and culture, Dineen paid homage to San Francisco for fighting harder than many other cities to preserve legacy bars.

The talk was followed by appetizers, drinks, book signing, and networking.

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