Driftwood, a laid-back cocktail den in the former home of gay leather fixture Kok Bar, has officially opened on Folsom Street. Owners Chris Milstead and Shawn Magee (who also owns Amnesia) were inspired by their mutual love of surfing and the Northern California coast, which they discovered 15 years ago as neighbors in the Mission.
The space is designed to evoke a cozy, coastal hideout, complete with an old-timey piano, leather-topped barstools hand-sewn by Magee and his wife, and a fireplace in back. Milstead and Magee did most of the construction and remodeling themselves, right down to the curved wooden back bar reminiscent of a boat's hull. (Their original idea, to construct a bar out of an actual old boat, sadly proved too impractical.) Nautical touches like netting, rope, and old maritime paintings round out the theme, along with lighting fixtures made from hand-cast glass pieces by artist Lawrence LaBianca. Milstead and Magee are still accepting suggestions for the name of their unofficial mascot, the seal sculpture that sits at the front of their maritime-grade bronze bar.
The space has a full bar and a selection of beers on tap, plus a cocktail menu created by Nick Bray of 83 Proof, with nautically-named drinks like The Hemisphere and Bosun's Knot. (Here's the current cocktail menu.) A boozy house punch that started as a Pride weekend special proved so popular that it's now a permanent offering.
Driftwood marks a change of pace for the address, which has a gay leather lineage stretching back to the '70s. The owners say they now want the space to be a neighborhood bar that's open and welcoming to gays and straights alike. They've even retained one important remnant of the bar's history: go into the bathroom to catch a glimpse of their impressive 2.5-foot wooden phallus, a souvenir held over from one of the spaces's former incarnations.