The Weeknighter: Churchill
Churchill, Church Street at Market
Photo from Churchill’s website
Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Stuart Schuffman will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, giving you the lowdown on how and where to do your weeknight right. From the most creative cocktails to the best happy hours, Stuart’s taking you along on his weeknight adventures into the heart of the City’s nightlife. So, who wants a drink?
I was thinking of the line in “Steady Rollin’ ”, the Two Gallants song, that goes “You might’ve seen me ‘neath the pool hall lights/Well baby I go back each night.” It was a Monday night atChurchill and it was Andy’s turn to shoot. He was on my team while we played pool against Geri-Ayn, Tiffany, and Maggie; it was boys against girls. I was fucking with Instagram, trying to get a good picture that felt the way the night did, but got this one instead. Later on in the week and especially during weekends, Churchill is packed with people drinking and talking and trying to figure out if they’re going home alone or with someone else. The crowd is full of of gays, straights, and in-betweens, a reflection of one of The City’s best crossroads, where the Lower Haight, The Mission, and the Castro all collide and collude to make a place called Church and Market.
But like I said, it was Monday, and while there were other people in the bar, we had the pool table (and more importantly the jukebox) all to ourselves. Andy popped on Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” while Maggie lined up a shot, and I looked out the window and watched The City’s weird, sad parade of homelessness trudge by. “I need a drink. Who else wants one?” I asked and only Tiffany joined in, so we walked to the bar and she bought me a drink because I opened my wallet and realized I’d run out of money. The other people at the bar were imbibing pretty things with names like Bees Ness, El Diablo, and The Homefront. The cocktails at Churchill are seasonal so the drink list changes fairly often. But I got what I always get, a vodka soda with a lemon. I gotta watch my girlish figure after all.
A couple incarnations ago the joint was called The Transfer. It was a skeezy gay bar with cheap drinks and had dance parties where everyone was young, wasted, and androgynous. It was a lot of fun and a lot of weird. Churchill has come a long way since then. The crowd is decidedly more upmarket and the interior is quite lovely, something that never could’ve been said about The Transfer. Dotting the big open space are fixtures reminiscent of another time. The theme here is WWII era watering hole so there’s a massive American flag with only 48 stars (sorry Alaska and Hawaii), ropes and repurposed wood for a ceiling, vintage lamps, and a portrait of the bar’s namesake, Winston Churchill.
After the pool game and a couple more drinks it was time to go. It was at least 1 am and people had to get up for work the next day and I needed to work on this article. So we all went our separate ways. While walking home I got to thinking about how wonderful my life is. The fact that it’s totally a normal thing to spend Monday night in an awesome bar with brilliant friends is a testament to San Francisco. People my age in the rest of the country had already been in bed for hours dreaming about how much they hate their bosses. I got to be out late and be paid to write about it. It reminded me of another line from the same Two Gallants song, “Out waltzing with the holy ghost/from the Bowery to the Barbary Coast/the land I’m from you know I love the most/steady rollin’ and I keep going.”
Stuart Schuffman has been called “an Underground legend” by the SF Chronicle, “an SF cult hero” by the SF Bay Guardian, and “the chief of cheap” by Time Out New York. He is also the host for the IFC travel show Young, Broke & Beautiful. Follow him @BrokeAssStuart.