Beloved Tenderloin dive bar Geary Club to change hands

Beloved Tenderloin dive bar Geary Club to change hands
Photo: Geary Club/Facebook
By Alisa Scerrato - Published on November 06, 2019.

Tipsters T.A. and Shoshannah alerted us that petite, quirky Tenderloin bar Geary Club (768 Geary St.) unexpectedly closed its doors last week.

A handwritten sign posted to the bar's door says it will be closed "until further notice." While owner June Russell could not be reached, sources say that it shuttered at the close of business last Thursday — Halloween.

It turns out that Geary Club has new owners: Justin Trujillo (a partner at SoMa dive bar Tempest) and Michael Levin (general manager of Mid-Market's Hazel) recently purchased the bar from Russell, who has owned it for 40 years. 

While the sale of Geary Club was already in the works, Trujillo said, the sudden closure wasn't planned. According to a representative for the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), Geary Club's liquor license is currently under a suspension hold from the state's tax agency, the Board of Equalization (BOE). (A BOE rep declined to comment on the reasons for the suspension.)

The pair wanted to help Russell re-open Geary Club by tomorrow, so that she could have one last weekend hurrah with her employees before retiring. They worked to get her license restored, but ultimately, Trujillo said, their hands were tied.

"We wanted [Russell] and her employees to work there for a few more days before we take over," he said, expressing regret that they couldn't make it happen.

Photo: T.A. Hoodline Tipline

Trujillo said he's been bugging Russell, who is now 84 years old, to sell him the bar for close to a decade. But it wasn't until this year that she decided that she was finally ready to retire. 

"It's my dream bar, "he said. "I am a San Francisco native and was actually born on Geary Blvd., so I feel like this was meant to be."

Photo: Carrie Sisto/Hoodline

Geary Club has long been one of the Tenderloin's best-kept secrets, with no sign marking the tiny space that only has room for about 25 or so patrons. A stuffed tiger head hangs above the bar, and the bartenders' ranks have included some genuine SF characters.

Trujillo said that he and Levin plan to reopen the bar sometime next week. They will be retaining Geary Club's staff and keeping the bar's name, while doing some minor renovations and giving a "facelift" to its selection of beer and liquor.

While Russell won't have a chance to say goodbye to the bar, Trujillo said he and Levin plan to honor her in the new update.

"We love June and we are going to try to continue to pay homage to her, because it is her bar," he said. "We love and appreciate her very much, just as her friends and customers do."

A previous version of this story announced plans for June Russell to host a goodbye weekend for Geary Club this weekend. However, after publication, new owner Justin Trujillo learned that the bar's liquor license could not be restored in time. We've updated the story accordingly.