Diners and theatergoers are about to have a reason to head to what's considered one of the Tenderloin's grittiest blocks. PianoFight, a sketch comedy venue, theater, and film production company, is set to open its doors this Friday, December 19 in the old Original Joe's space, complete with a full bar and restaurant. In addition to the eatery, the 5,000-square-foot ground floor space (plus a 3,000-square-foot basement) will offer two different theater spaces, rehearsal and dressing rooms, and a cabaret stage. The ambitious complex is part of the city-led revival of Mid-Market as an entertainment district, with the nearby Strand Theater, American Conservatory Theater Costume Shop, and Exit Theatre all undergoing renovations.
While childhood friends and founders Rob Ready, Dan Williams and Kevin Fink celebrate an irreverent "seat-of-the-pants" philosophy, their multi-purpose venue has been long in the making: the trio signed a ten-year lease way back in 2011, raising a total of $1.2 million on Kickstarter, through private investors and a city grant to get their doors open.
The 60-seat restaurant will offer patrons a place to meet for dinner and drinks, or just hang out after a show. According to Ready, it was especially important to the group to give people a place to "digest" the show they just saw— however, the restaurant and bar will be open to the public from 4pm-midnight (or 2 am, depending on the day), with live music after 10 pm on weekends. Executive Director Dan Williams, who grew up working in the family restaurant business, will take charge of the food and beverage programs, serving "classic" American foods like burgers, corn dogs, gourmet sausages and a myriad of fried foods. Williams plans to "eschew the mixology craze," instead focusing on three to five classic cocktails alongside a full bar with local beer and wine on tap.
One way in which those classic cocktails will be put to good use: the new venue's first performance, Forking II: A Merry Forking! Christmas is a play centered around audience participation. Ready explains, "It's a fully scripted play that takes place in a mall on Christmas Eve... every so often, a host character comes out and asks the audience what they want to happen and the audience votes by loud, drunken applause." The show will run December 19-January 3. Bleacher seats are $15, while high-falutin' Patron of the Farts seats are $40; purchase them here.