The Weeknighter: The Phone Booth


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?

The last time I was at the Phone Booth, I was waiting for Caitlin Donohue to show up. She was coming from Daytime Realness or Hard French or one of the other incredible queer dance parties that happens at El Rio. We were going to a toga party at that start up mansion up in Noe Valley where all those folks from the Silicon Valley reality show lived. The party was full of cameras and weirdly scripted “reality TV” stuff and ended up being an utter shit show. But that’s a completely different story (one that ends up with me wearing only a turquoise and fuchsia toga at Moby Dick in the Castro).

While sipping my vodka soda and waiting for Caitlin, I began thinking about how long it had been since I’d been to the Phone Booth and how much time I’d spent there in my mid twenties. The answer to both questions was “a lot.” There were many nights back in that first decade of this strange century where a crew of us would post up under the Barbie doll chandelier, grooving to the excellently curated jukebox, and throw back enough incredibly cheap drinks to not care that our clothes would inevitably reek of cigarettes the next day. At the time, the Phone Booth was one of the few bars that had found the proper loophole in the no smoking law, and allowed the clientele to puff away. This may still be true, I don’t really know, but I now remember why I stopped going there so often, I always ended up reeking like smoke!

It’s too bad though, because what the diminutive Phone Booth lacks in size, it makes up for in character. The clientele is a mix of local drunks, queers, hipsters, queer hipsters, and local drunk queer hipsters. I imagine it’s the same now; tattooed and pierced people shooting pool, eating free popcorn, and marveling at the magnificent framed photo of Tom Selleck. Almost everyone who has gotten drunk at the Phone Booth has considered stealing it. Luckily, nobody ever follows through.

It was during that short but intense era when Myspace was utterly important. The internet had made it so that we could project any version of ourselves we identified with at that very moment, so the people I became close with had names like Mike Heartless and Lisa Poisongirl. The people who you spend a lot of time with in your mid twenties aren’t always the ones you get to hang out with in your 30s. They get married or move away or have kids or do all of the above, just like Heartless and Poisongirl did. Even though they still have those monikers in my phone, they go by their real last names these days.

I’m overdue for a trip to the Phone Booth. Not for the free popcorn or to relive my salad days, and certainly not for the smoke. I think I’m finally gonna steal that Tom Selleck photo this time and hang it in my room.

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