House of Shields making last call 

Eva Azrilian and John Stevens sat against the wall of the dimly lit bar, sharing an after-work beer with their colleagues.

The two said they had recently discovered the House of Shields in downtown, and that the ambience, music and atmosphere were some of many reasons they returned.

So, they were disappointed to learn that after more than 100 years, the saloon is closing at the end of this week.

“This place has a lot of history,” Stevens said. “I wish it would stay open.”

Azrilian agreed the history was important, and she said the live music and lighting are a draw.

“The darkness is part of the ambience,” she said.

On Saturday, the bright neon sign that illuminates the entry way to the saloon will permanently dim, according to the owner of the property.

The history of the bar is not entirely known, according to its website. It originally opened in 1908 at its current location. The iconic wooden bar was purchased after its intended site, the Pied Piper room of The Palace Hotel across the street, couldn’t support it because Maxfield Parrish’s 7-by-16-foot painting of the Pied Piper took up too much space.

The future of the bar is unclear. The Sentinel sandwich shop that occupies a small space immediately next door on the corner of New Montgomery and Stevenson streets will expand into the House of Shields, according to the property owners.

Owners of the House of Shields did not return requests for comment.

Bob Bernhein, owner of Coast County Properties, said the owners chose not to renew the lease with the building. However, he didn’t seem to be upset about that fact.

“It’s all for the better,” he said. “It’s always been junky and the owners always said they were going to clean it up. But the ones who said that are no longer with the company.”

On any given night, the clientele can vary. Groups huddle around old-style booths against the windows while some take up stools at the bar.

Nate Yates, 29, sat against the thick wooden bar. He said the history was so rich that it created a certain mood in the space, something that can’t be found in other bars in The City.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

 

House of Shields

Original opening date at current location: 1908
Location: 39 New Montgomery St.
Features: Old-style wooden bar, private booth seating
Draws: Live music Friday nights
Final day: Saturday

Source: House of Shields

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