About a half year ago I noticed activity at 1092 Post Street, the former home of the Lush Lounge. This was good news, because that corner had been quite lively in the past. When I happened upon Mark’s Bar after it opened, the first thing I noticed was the sound from the street. From outside I could hear the laughter and the sound of bar dice slamming on the bar. It was certainly a welcome sound, as the bar (which has been open since October) had been unoccupied for three years since the Lush Lounge moved up the street.
Upon entering the bar you are transported: the blue of the walls and the glass panels with iris behind the bar make you feel as if perhaps you have entered some cousin of Li Po on Polk Street. This is not unintentional. To honor his lover Mark Aloiau (originally from Hawaii), Chris Amburn has decorated the bar in an Asian style, incorporating silk paintings bought in Chinatown and a blue (Mark’s favorite color), yellow and red color motif. Behind the bar resides a gong which is run whenever a round is bought by a bar patron. This place is both a breath of fresh air and harkens back to friendly Polk Street watering holes of the past.
Then there is the crowd that the bar attracts: in equal parts locals from the neighborhood and patrons from the karaoke bar Chris and Mark own on California Street, the Encore. The feeling of neighborhood which reigns in the bar is not unintentional. Chris hired Johnny, Kenny and Jose from Kimo’s after it closed for renovation. And from the frames on the pictures to the lights in the bar and the produce, all were bought from businesses on Polk Street. This emphasis on neighborhood is a key to success Chris is copying from his other bar, where Kipper (from Divas) works.
Chris named the bar after Mark, his lover of twenty-nine years. Chris explains: "When we met in 1982 just before gay pride I knew it was fate." It’s obvious from the attention to detail that this bar is an expression of that love. From the choice of the wood for the bar, which Chris had searched for three months before settling on the zebrawood that seems perfect, to a rather amazing jukebox which featuring rock, hip hop and country, the place is comfortable and fun. Expect the eclectic in sounds (while I was there the memories of the ’70s were stirred by a sudden infusion of Barry White).
It’s wonderful to see a gay-friendly revival of part of Polk Street that has been an LGBT hotspot from the time Polk Gulch inhabited the spot before Lush Lounge, and when the Motherlode was on the other end of the block. The commitment to that revival is also shown in the concern that the bar remains a safe and friendly place (cameras outside the bar monitor the neighborhood).
Chris plans to have nine different beers on tap and booths upstairs which will available for private parties. In a further addition to the Hawaiian theme, the bar will be mounting pictures and decorations from the SS Lurline (a cruise ship which travelled between Hawaii and San Francisco from the ’30s to the ’60s).
Happy hour runs from 1pm to 7pm daily, and Mai Tai madness ($5 Mai Tais) is all day Sundays. Look for specialty drinks (Wasabi Martinis and Ginger Manhattans) in the near future. Stop by Mark’s at the corner of Post and Polk and welcome a worthwhile, and friendly, addition to the neighborhood.
Mark’s Bar, 1092 Polk St. 829-3623.