Hi Tops Alum Opening New Castro Restaurant & Bar at Long-Troubled Former Bagdad Café Space

Hi Tops Alum Opening New Castro Restaurant & Bar at Long-Troubled Former Bagdad Café SpacePhoto: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
Steven Bracco
Published on February 08, 2024

A new Castro restaurant and bar is headed for the long-troubled former Bagdad Café space at 2295 Market Street (at Noe), more recently known as Los Amigos Diner.

Current Hi Tops co-manager Colm O'Brien is venturing out on his own to open Bar 49 in the coming months.

The most recent tenant, Salvadoran restaurant Los Amigos, closed in September after just six months in the space.


Bar 49 will be opening at 2295 Market St. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

 

O'Brien brings his Castro bar and nightlife experience to Bar 49 having worked at Hi Tops for 10 years and Lookout for three years.

Originally from Ireland, O'Brien has called San Francisco home for nearly 20 years and currently resides in the Excelsior.

"Having spent almost 10 years working at Hi Tops with the most amazing owners and co-coworkers I have learned so much and met so many great people," said O'Brien. "I'm excited and nervous and everything in between." 


Bar 49 owner Colm O'Brien. |  Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

 

O'Brien tells Hoodline that Bar 49 refers to San Francisco being approximately 49 square miles, not the San Francisco 49ers who are making their eighth Super Bowl appearance on Sunday in hopes of picking up their sixth title.

O'Brien is currently applying for a new beer and wine license with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (CA ABC). Bar 49 will offer customers over 49 beer and wine options with 12 beers on draft and a variety of canned and bottled selections.

"I'm concentrating on a lot of beers and wines," said O'Brien.

Bar 49 will be open Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight and on the weekends from 10 a.m. to midnight.


Image: Courtesy of Colm O'Brien

 

"The food menu will consist of appetizers and shared options and a short easy dinner menu of bar food," says O'Brien.

Cosmetic upgrades to the interior will include seating layout changes along with installing new tile, a menu board, televisions, and beer taps. "I want the beer taps to be the focus point," explained O'Brien.

O'Brien is hopeful to open Bar 49 sometime in May with construction kicking off in April once all the necessary permits and licenses have been secured.

Opening his own bar and restaurant has always been a goal, says O'Brien, however nothing worked out in the past. "I looked spaces during the pandemic and almost got a few," said O'Brien. "This space came up and I decided now was the right time."

"I feel I’m ready to pursue my own venture and see what happens," added O'Brien.


Inside 2295 Market St. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

 

Staying in the Castro was important, says O'Brien. "It's where I hang out, it's where I work, it's the people I know - I love it." 

He also thinks the location of the space is perfect at the corner of Market, Noe, and 16th streets with plenty of foot traffic, the F-line rolling by, and many bars and restaurants in the area.

The two blocks of Market between Castro and Sanchez streets have seen a bit of resurgence in the past year after suffering from multiple long-time vacancies. O'Brien pointed towards the soon-to-be reopening Fisch and Flore (formerly Cafe Flore) across the street as a sign of good things to come.

News of Bar 49's opening comes as another group of nightlife alums plan to open new Castro bar Pink Swallow in the former Harvey's space.


Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

 

The restaurant's space at 2295 Market Street has a long history. The New York City Deli operated in the space from 1978 to 1990. It was replaced by 24-hour restaurant Bagdad Café, which operated for two decades and was a favorite among the neighborhood's queer nightlife scene.

But since Bagdad Café closed in 2011, the space has seen a fair amount of turnover. Soul food restaurant Criolla Kitchen briefly took it over before becoming SliderBar in 2012.

In 2015, the owners of SliderBar remodeled and rebranded as Ovok, hoping to evade bad publicity due to two Health Department closures. Ovok closed six months later, which is when Castro Republic moved in. Castro Republic closed four years later and the space sat vacant until Los Amigos took over last year.


Market & Noe streets in 1986; New York Deli is on the far right. | Photo: Max Kirkeberg/SFSU

 

While many restaurants have not been successful in the former Bagdad Café space, O'Brien believes Bar 49 will succeed by focusing on a beer and wine menu and a streamlined food menu.

"From experience, a lot of people in the Castro drink a lot of beer and wine," said O'Brien.

O'Brien says he also plans to tap into his vast neighborhood connections to help make Bar 49 a success.

"I'm extremely grateful to be in a position to open my own space in a neighborhood that I love and in a city I’ve lived in for a long time," said O'Brien.