After a two-alarm fire consumed the Riptide bar and the neighboring Great Highway Market last August, Outer Sunset and Parkside locals were left without a community space for live music. Residents and fans lamented the loss of the 12-year-old Riptide, which was more than just a bar for many regulars, who described it as a “home” and “an institution."
Now, in what co-owner David Quinby calls “the most surreal year of my life," the Riptide and its supporters have undertaken an arduous journey to rebuild the bar. They've held fundraisers and concerts all across San Francisco, and have even asked customers to submit photos of their good times at the Riptide—jello shots and all—so the owners can rebuild the bar to be as close to what it was before.
The latest hurdle for the Riptide's renaissance is getting a new entertainment license, which is required for the bar to continue offering live music. Because the bar's history stretches back to 1941, live performances at the Riptide had previously been grandfathered in from previous incarnations of the venue, says Quinby.
When the fire occurred last year, Quinby and his co-owner, Les James, had already been going through the process to obtain an entertainment license and expand the bar to add a food component. The fire dramatically interrupted those plans, but they hope to bring back the music when the bar returns.
Quinby, who grew up in San Francisco, remembers his days of having to drive over to Twin Peaks to see live music. Seeing how “cloistered everyone was in their own community” was the inspiration for him and James, a working drummer, to start their own live music space in the Sunset.
"I think that it’s very important that live entertainment remain in the Riptide, because there’s no live entertainment west of Twin Peaks," said Quinby. "People have always said, 'Why does there have to be a commute to see entertainment?'"
The Planning Commission hearing for the Riptide’s entertainment license is scheduled for June 23rd. So far, the bar has received an outpouring of community support, with over a thousand letters in support of their license so far. But Quinby would like to see even more.
“We’ve already got a thousand letters—but five thousand is better,” says Quinby. He also encourages supporters to attend the hearing at City Hall in person and speak during the public comment period.
As for the bar’s reopening, Quinby wouldn’t say when its doors would welcome musicians and supporters again.
“It feels to me it’s going to be very very soon,” he says. “The music will be back, and the family and the community will be back.”
When the Riptide returns, it will be greeted by a recent revitalization of its block of Taraval, between 46th and 46th Avenues. While many storefronts are currently boarded up, two new coffee shops—Streamline Cafe and Andytown—will soon bring espresso drinks and pastries to the area. A new cocktail bar is set to open across the street from the Riptide, and the Great Highway Market is also in the process of rebuilding.
But with its strong community, the anchor of the block is undoubtedly the Riptide.
“We lost our home that we took for granted would be there,” Quinby said. "But the joy about the whole thing is that it’s coming back through so much support from so many thousands of people, who chipped in to help out. It’s the community that rebuilt us.”
To write a letter of support for the Riptide, visit their Facebook page. The Planning Commission's public hearing involving the Riptide will take place at noon on June 23rd, in the Commission Chambers, Room 400, at City Hall.