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The WORST bar in the bay area: blend San Francisco

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While bar hopping in North Beach with six others on Friday night, one person led us to "blend," claiming that it was a great place to hang out. We trekked all the way down to the corner of Columbus and Filbert to the site of Frankie's Bohemian, which still runs the food window attached to this new lounge/bar.

To enter the door, we had to exert extra physical effort to overcome the barrier of blaring, and bad, music. Inside were several staff members and three customers: a woman, a man making out with that woman, and his no-longer-needed wingman. We approached the bar and waiting for the bartender to finish what she was doing and take our drink order. She continued to shovel ice from one bucket to another. This task was apparently too important to be delayed. Eventually another bartender came out and grudgingly took our order: several beers and a couple of simple cocktails. Drinks arrived, were paid for plus tip, and we took a seat. The first bartender continued to shovel ice; one person in our group claimed that she had reversed directions and was shoveling the same ice back into the original bucket.

Several in our party had gone to the restroom during the ordering ordeal and reported that the restrooms were covered--floors, walls, fixtures--with urine and trash. A girl in our group asked the DJ to turn the music down just a little, so he momentarily turned it off, then back up even louder than before, all the while smugly staring at her. Suddenly, the lights turned all the way on, then on and off several times. A few seconds later a guy came out, walked up to the three other customers, clapped right in their faces and pointed to the door. Then he stood in the middle of the room looking in our direction, again clapped and pointed to the door. Quick frankly, none of us had any desire to remain one second more so we all quickly left. I was too much of a gentleman to do what I wanted to do--tip up our table and spill our half-finished drinks upon the floor. But I and the rest of our party weren't so polite as to not yell obscenities at the staff on our way out. The first bartender continued to shovel ice.

All seven agreed that the 10 to 15 minutes inside of "blend" were the worst minutes we had ever spent at a food or dining establishment in our lives. These people were so rude that I was convinced that the only explanation was that the owner told them earlier in evening that they were going out of business at that they would all be fired at the end of the night. I fully expected to see the door locked and windows papered over when I ran an errand in North Beach earlier today. But no: they are still open for business; presumably still shoveling ice.

But not for much longer, I suspect.

-Nick

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  1. Yikes, thanks for the warning. We just noticed that place Saturday night, as we were walking home up Columbus. After reading your post, I'm happy we stayed on the far side of the street. (g)

    1. Just one tip - don't tell any DJs in a bar to "turn it down," no matter how reasonable you think you are being. If you don't like the noise level (or, as in this case, you don't even like the music), go somewhere else. Or, if you MUST have the music turned down, ask the manager/bartender.

      5 Replies
      1. re: a DJ
        a
        A Paying Customer

        I will never hesitate to politely ask a DJ to turn down the music in a bar if it's too loud since he is there for me, i.e. the paying customer that keeps the bar in business.

        1. re: A Paying Customer

          Actually, technically the DJ is "performing" -- ie, its not like a music track on the soundsystem which is easily turned down -- so I agree with the poster who said it was better just to take off instead. The volume is ostensibly part of the performance. This bit of etiquette from friends who are both restaurant owners and DJs.

          1. re: Maya
            a
            A Paying Customer

            More agreement per my point - Per Moby's blog 5/20/04 - http://www.moby.com/index2.html:

            "ok,
            i have an odd question:
            why, in public places such as bars for example, does music need to be ear-splittingly loud when no one's dancing?
            i understand loud music when people are disco dancing.
            but deafeningly loud music when people are just trying to be social and conversational?
            could someone tell the bar/lounge propietors(ha ha)of the world that when people are socializing they like some nice music in the background, but they don't neccessarily need to hear that same white stripes song over and over again at EAR SPLITTING LEVELS FORCING YOU TO SCREAM INTO YOUR FRIENDS EAR JUST TO BE HEARD.
            ok, i've made my curmudgeonly point for the evening.
            thank you,
            moby"

          2. re: A Paying Customer

            Oh boy. At the risk of exacerbating a flame war but with the hope of preventing one, I'll say this:

            Any bar has a particular atmosphere they are aiming for, and the DJ and/or management select the music style and volume to create it. I can understand why a DJ would not like to be *told* to modify the music. I would also understand if a DJ simply declined to change the music if he was *asked* to do so. I would, as suggested, simply leave and go where the atmosphere that the club is trying to create is more in line with the experience that I seek.

            The point of my telling that part of the story, though, was the manner in which the DJ reacted when asked to turn it down. His actions, like those of the rest of the staff, were designed to maximize the misery of their customers. And that is why it the worst bar in the bay area.

            -Nick

            1. re: A Paying Customer

              While it's generally true about the "ambience" that the place is trying to create, when there is no one else around the volume can easily be turned down and in fact should be. Any decent sound man knows that lots of bodies soak up sound, and louder volumes are needed. No one around you need to turn it down. However it sounds like this place didn't want any customers at that time.

          3. n
            notnorthbeach!

            i think that if a were working in north beach on friday nite, i might be a bit smug as well... but then again, like pretty much everyone who actually LIVES in san francisco, i know better than to head down there on friday/saturday nite.

            and NEVER ask the dj to turn it down. JUST LEAVE, or ask the manager/bartender. its bar ettiquette.

            i'm sure this will bring on the flames, but its true.

            better luck next time!