Barbarossa is getting closer to its mid-to-late October opening, and new details are emerging on what is turning into a bar with lots of prison-inspired touches. After owner Eric Benn brought on co-partner Arash Ghanadan (Novela) to re-design and re-theme the 17-year-old champagne bar, Ghanadan and architect Jacek Ostoya (Harlot, Novela, Whitechapel) came up with a theme rooted in the area’s Barbary Coast history and the space’s history as a prison, and he’s really run with it. Jail doors from Alcatraz and San Quentin have been ordered, along with skeleton keys, shackles and a whole lot of red and black decor. "I said, ‘Let’s not do just a champagne bar. That’s cool, but San Francisco got more sophisticated with the drinks," Ghanadan told Eater. To do that, he brought in bar consultant Christina Cabrera (The Progress, Old Bus Tavern) to create a cocktail menu to fit in the theme. Every drink is named after either a criminal, prostitute or brothel from the Barbary Coast era, and there will be a monthly rotating large-format grog. "Sailors drank citrus to prevent scurvy and added rum to stop it from going rancid," Cabrera told Eater. She’s paying homage to that with an apple one for October, pear cardamom in November and cranberry in December.
Barbarossa also still has access to the Bubble Lounge’s extensive champagne library, and so the back room, to be called "Bubble Lounge at Barbarossa" will have plenty of bottles for order. Downstairs will have a more relaxed vibe, "more like a living room," Ghanadan said. "I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of after-dinner crowds coming here, because normally by 9 p.m. after dinner, I’m personally not done. And the trend is going toward let’s do dinner and then a cocktail," he explained. To that end, the food won’t be extensive — think a raw bar, charcuterie and desserts (including wedding cake). Barbarossa is on track to open mid-to-late October; stay tuned for more details closer to opening.