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Twin Peaks, Sam Jordan's Declared Historic by Supes

The exterior of Sam Jordan's.
The exterior of Sam Jordan's.
Photo: John Storey/Chron

Further proof that SF loves its watering holes: both Twin Peaks in the Castro and Sam Jordan's in Bayview were declared historic landmarks by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night. They join a fairly small coterie of other food-and-drink-related landmarks, including the former Jack's Restaurant in the Financial District and the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel. Considering that Jack's (which last played home to Jeanty at Jack's) has been closed since 2009 because its historic look hasn't meshed with the visions of potential tenants, what does that mean for the two newest members of the landmark club? More info after the jump.

First, a little bit on each bar's history: Sam Jordan's primarily derives its historic status from its titular owner, a former boxer and serial entrepreneur who became the city's first black mayoral candidate in 1963, eventually coming in fourth in the eight-person race. A later investigation revealed that the FBI attempted to undermine Jordan's run for office, creating discord with false rumors that communists had infiltrated the campaign. The alcohol licensing board also repeatedly targeted the bar, and Jordan's campaign records were mysteriously removed from the public register. (Jordan later described the experience as "racism, pure and simple.") Nonetheless, Sam Jordan's remained a popular gathering place, and Jordan participated in the Bayview community by giving free meals to hungry residents, and organizing everything from black businessman's lunches to a senior-citizen theater group. Though he died in 2003, the bar is still run by his children. The supes' full report has everything you'd want to know about Jordan, including his penchant for monogrammed one-piece jumpsuits.

Twin Peaks, which has been around since 1935 and was bought by two lesbians in 1975, is known for its picture windows and, shall we say, "mature" gay clientele. (It's lovingly known as "The Glass Coffin" to many Castro denizens.) But the bar also has some cool history, having served as a shelter for LGBT folks in the "White Night" riots following Dan White's acquittal for the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. The owners turned off the lights and got patrons to move to the floor; the cops ultimately bypassed the bar and devastated the nearby Elephant Walk instead. Twin Peaks also sponsored fund-raisers, bake sales, and memorials during the worst days of the AIDS epidemic. Again, the full city report has all the details; the good historical intel starts around page 20, including the owners' admission that they bought far too many Irish coffee glasses because bartenders would throw them out rather than dirty the wash water with cream residue.

So what does historic status mean for the future of these two bars, considering their age and their equally aged clientele? As our friends at Curbed report, this just means certain aspects of the space are landmarked, not the business inside. For example, Twin Peaks' sign and exterior have to be preserved, but the space doesn't have to remain a gay bar (the lesbians who put it on the map as one actually already sold it, in 2003). This is why an attempt at a historic designation didn't end up being useful for the Gold Dust Lounge or the Eagle Tavern, among other recently contested spaces. As you may recall, the Gold Dust ended up moving to Fisherman's Wharf and losing their space to an Express store, while the Eagle was saved and is soon to be rebooted.

—Allie Pape
· How Does Landmarking Bars Affect the Business? [Curbed SF]
· Sam Jordan's and Twin Peaks Tavern granted San Francisco landmark status [ISSF]

Twin Peaks Tavern

401 Castro St., San Francisco

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