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The Lucky 13 Sign has a new home, inside Bender’s Bar & Grill

The Lucky 13 Sign has a new home, inside Bender’s Bar & Grill
Image: Joe Kukura, Hoodline
By Joe Kukura - Published on February 24, 2022.

The five-year saga of the closing of dive bar Lucky 13 had many, many chapters. We first got word that the Upper Market punk-rock-and-popcorn watering hole with the black cat sign out front would be razed for condos in 2015. Though the demolition was not approved until 2017, when the property hit the market for nearly $10 million, and in the cat-and-mouse game between developers and the bar, its murals were painted over. Lucky 13 did survive long enough to celebrate its 25th anniversary in April 2019, but the pandemic shut it down. It did reopen for patio drinks briefly, but Lucky 13 closed for good in December 2020.

Image: Joe Kukura, Hoodline

 

But the black cat now has one more life. The Lucky 13 sign has relocated to Bender’s Bar & Grill (806 South Van Ness Avenue), and now sits proudly next to a KISS-themed pinball machine in the billiard table area. The sign was apparently moved a few months ago.

 
 
 
 
 
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Bender’s has traditionally collected signs from our favorite closed businesses, like the old Leather Tongue Video sign seen below. But COVID-19 has brought perhaps too many retired signs. “It’s sad,” Bender’s co-owner Johnny Davis tells Broke-Ass Stuart. “We’ve gotten a bunch of new stuff since the start of the pandemic. In fact, we had so many things offered to us that we had to turn some down.”

Image: Joe Kukura, Hoodline

 

You’ll also see the signs for former faves Annie’s Social Club (RIP, 2009) and the Brown Jug Saloon (RIP, 2016).

Image: Joe Kukura, Hoodline

 

But some of Bender’s signs have brought businesses back to life, literally. The former Cat’s Head BBQ is now reanimated in Bender’s as their in-house restaurant, OverKill Grill. “We used to own Cat’s Head BBQ,” Richard Park tells Hoodline, referring to he and his wife Pamela Schaefer. “We asked them if they wanted our sign. We actually had Big Nate’s BBQ menu board as well.” (Cat’s Head operated in the former Big Nate’s BBQ space on Folsom Street.)

Image: Joe Kukura, Hoodline

“We didn’t even know we were going to be moving in here until maybe seven or eight more months after that,” Park says. “It’s kind of fortuitous that we actually gave them our sign, and now we’re operating inside of here.” 

Image: Joe Kukura, Hoodline

 

Bender’s took in more than just Lucky 13’s sign. “That’s actually Lucky 13’s bar stools,” Park tells us, gesturing toward the bar.

Image: Joe Kukura, Hoodline

 

It sure seems highly appropriate for the Lucky 13 sign to reside at Bender’s, both unpretentious, punk-rock dive bars, and of a rebellious San Francisco vintage that seems to be disappearing. And if you want to revel in Lucky 13 memories beyond just enjoying their relocated sign and stools, check out Martin Reade’s 27-minute mini-documentary Lucky 13 – Last Call for Alcohol, but be warned you may need a few Kleenex at the end.