Vesuvio Café – North Beach

“… Leo Riegler, part owner and ‘padrone’ of Vesuvio Café on Columbus Avenue, once remarked, ‘You can’t be all things to all people.’ While this is sage advice for most business owners, the truth is Vesuvio has been pretty much all things to the thousands that have called it home over the years. ‘It’s the little boat that keeps cutting through the water.’ That’s how managing partner and co-owner Janet Clyde describes the 60 year Vesuvio sojourn. The establishment continues to thrive when other neighborhood saloons have long since been wrecked, left to rot in the foggy ruins of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, Vesuvio has never been just a bar. It’s true that booze sales pay the bills but the place is also an art gallery, a museum, a living room for those of us in cramped apartments, a community meeting place, a support group headquarters, a literary Mecca, a mandatory stop on a tourist’s agenda, and a place to try and get laid. Upon pushing past the heavy wood door, beneath the faux stained glass bearing the saloon’s name, you enter a world of whimsy and time travel. I realize this might sound like romantic drivel, but I need to be excused. Vesuvio was my first San Francisco bar. … As bar manager Mike Manson notes, pointing out the window toward the entrance of City Lights Bookstore, ‘These two places have a symbiotic relationship for people searching for that ‘Kerouac thing’. It’s one stop shopping.’ Lawrence Ferlinghetti opened his now venerable independent bookstore in 1954 and the two businesses have fed off each other ever since. At one point in the eighties, so the legend is told, Vesuvio was almost sold to a group that wanted to rename the bar Kerouac’s. Thankfully, this never came to pass. But as Manson points out, ‘Kerouac is the key; he helped to romanticize drinking and writing like Faulkner or Hemingway did a generation before him.’ …”
Founds SF

Gregory Corso, one of those expelled from Vesuvio’s, hanging out with friends in the Haight-Ashbury, c. 1966.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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