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The Chapel: The Mission's Most Ambitious Music Venue

The Chapel

Photo by Cesar Rubio

There’s nothing much lacking at 777 Valencia St., least of all ambition. Packed inside this one address—home to The Chapel (otherwise known 
as Preservation Hall West) since opening this fall—congregants will find a creole-inspired restaurant, a bar and grille with an outdoor patio, a stage set for jazz bands and beyond, and a spirit and history brought over from the 51-year-old New Orleans original. Also expect grand objectives backed with passion. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, The Chapel’s owner and designer Jack Knowles says, “We believe in the night. There’s magic in the night.”

It was this brand of nighttime mystique that Knowles was looking for three years ago when he purchased a defunct Tudor-style building—previously a mortuary and later part of the New College. Gutting the 1914 structure revealed great bones—original dark wood beams, columns, and moldings from its days as the mortuary’s chapel—that Knowles had restored to their former glory. Low lighting and scarlet walls that soar to a 40-foot ceiling create both a sense of intimacy and heightened drama.

For Knowles, a friend of Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe, the cross-country sister act is logical: “Everyone has always been attracted to New Orleans. San Francisco is that to the West,” he says. So he built it, and they came. The October opening hosted a lineup including the Glide Ensemble and Elvis Costello. In addition to shows, The Chapel will sate the hungry and thirsty seven days a week starting in January with the opening of The Chapel Restaurant helmed by À Côté chef Matt Colgan.

“The Mission is the part of San Francisco where all the creative energy is going right now,” says Knowles. “But as cool as it is, it could use a core.” With The Chapel bringing throngs of music-lovers and bon vivants alike to Valencia, it may have one at last.

See what's coming to The Chapel here.

This article was published in 7x7's December/January issue. Click here to subscribe.