Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Fun & Entertainment
Published on October 30, 2015
The Haunting Of Poleng LoungePoleng's Temple Room set up with a table for diners (Photo: Desi Danganan)

Last week we brought news that both Sunshine Cleaners and the former site of Poleng Lounge on Fulton Street may be demolished and replaced by a five-story residential building. But future residents may want to proceed with caution, as a former Poleng Lounge owner tells us that 1751 Fulton St. just may be haunted by unquiet souls. 

"Will demolishing 1751 Fulton remove the demons that haunt the building?" asked former owner Desi Danganan in the comments section of our previous story. We caught up over the phone to hear the story of 1751 Fulton's iteration as Poleng Lounge.

The former site of Poleng Lounge (Photo: Loopnet)

Danganan opened up Poleng Lounge with some friends back in 2005. In past lives, 1751 Fulton St. was home to a number of jazz clubs. During its time as Off The Plaza, musicians such as Jimmy Smith and Ethel Ennis graced the stage. After that it was Storyville, another jazz club, and 1751 Social Club, a bar and restaurant. 

By day, Poleng was a tea lounge, but when darkness fell the space turned into a popular nightclub, with drinks and dancing. In the front was a restaurant with an Asian fusion menu, featuring items such as sweet potato fries with banana catsup, crispy adobo chicken wings, and grilled edamame with smoked salt. 

Success was immediate, with Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer giving the restaurant a three-star rating in 2006 and dubbing it "one of the freshest and most interesting restaurants to open in the Bay Area in some time." "We never really expected dinner portion to take off," Danganan told us. "We really saw ourselves as a drink establishment with food." 

But after hours, when its diners and dancers had left for the night, Poleng Lounge became something a little unsettling, said Danganan. “It was a very big space, and there always people there ... But when there was no one there you always had an eery feeling that something wasn’t right." 

The two-story building had a dining and dance room on the ground floor, and an office on the second. But the floor was badly insulated, meaning that if anyone was upstairs they could be heard down below. Oftentimes Danganan said he would hear footsteps above, only to visit the office and find no one there. A bartender closing down the bar claims he once saw a broom fly across the room. 

Photo: Poleng Lounge/Facebook

In 2008, the back Temple room was used as a Halloween haunted house for local children, promising to "frighten and amuse children from the neighborhood free of charge until 9pm." But the strangest event at Poleng Lounge occurred on Danganan's 35th birthday, when he and several friends gathered to hold a seance in the space. 

They painted a large pentagram on the floor, and gathered around the table to summon three souls: that of a jazz singer who used to work in the place, a former owner named Luther, and the mother of the landlord, who had recently passed away after being bed-ridden for years.  Following guidelines gleaned from YouTube, the five friends stood at each point in the pentagram and attempted to summon the spirits and communicate with them. While a video from the evening shows a group of friends having fun, at minute 3:30 everyone's voice seems to get a little more high-pitched. According to Danganan, that was when the lights outside the room began flickering. 

Try as they might, Danganan said the pentagram couldn't be cleaned off the floor post-seance. Most clientele didn't notice it as it was on the dance floor, but the building's next owners tore up the floor. 

Much to the despair of its many fans, Poleng Lounge closed in 2010, as the economic downturn forced layoffs and salary cuts, and the building hasn't seen much action since. Will the ghosts that may haunt its halls flit elsewhere if the building is demolished and a residential complex rises? Only time will tell.