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SF’s Oldest African-American-Owned Bar, Sam Jordan’s, Will Close

After nearly 60 years in the Bayview

Throgers/Flickr

Historic San Francisco bar and restaurant Sam Jordan’s will close next month after nearly 60 years in business. Hoodline reporter Meaghan Mitchell broke the sad news last night, and a “last call” block party at 4004 3rd Street is advertised for November 2.

The legacy establishment at the heart of the city’s historically black Bayview neighborhood was the first African-American bar to open in San Francisco when it debuted in 1959. But despite public and city support in recent years, the business has struggled financially.

In 2016, the late Sam Jordan’s children, co-owners Ruth and Allen Jordan, appeared on an episode of the TV show Bar Rescue, remodeling the business and revealing that they’d sunk more than $500,000 in debt. Then, this April, the Jordans listed the bar and its two-story building, which the family owns, for a sale price of $1 million.

Sam Jordan and wife Bertha Ruth in 1999
Sam Jordan and wife Bertha Ruth in 1999
Sam Jordan’s Bar

Amid public outcry over the possible loss of Sam Jordan’s, Ruth removed the listing in May and stated her intention to keep the bar running. But in July, according to real estate records, the Jordans listed their building for sale again.

“This is terrible news to lose a historic venue that has been much more than a bar in our community,” said Bayview District Supervisor Shamann Walton in a statement to Eater SF. “I can remember when my grandfather would get dressed up and go down to Sam Jordan’s on the weekends and I too have looked forward to spending time there often.”

Bar namesake and founder Sam Jordan was born in Texas, entered the Navy, and moved to San Francisco in 1947, where he worked as a longshoreman. He was a light-heavyweight boxer who won the San Francisco Golden Gloves, and a local personality known as “the “Mayor of Butchertown.” He was also the first African American to run for the actual title of San Francisco mayor, finishing fourth in a field of eight. In 2013, the bar he lent his name to gained SF legacy business status.

Sam Jordan’s is hardly the sole black-owned business to struggle in an expensive and heavily gentrified San Francisco, whose African American population has shrunk to below 6 percent. As Jay Foster, the longtime owner of soul food institution Farmerbrown, which closed last year, told Bon Appétit, “success merely means surviving.”

But even as Sam Jordan’s Bar leaves the Bayview, some measure of its presence will remain. Last year, the city renamed a block of Galvez Avenue “Sam Jordan’s Way” in Jordan’s honor.

“Sam’s legacy will never be forgotten and the memories will last a lifetime,” Supervisor Walton added. “As we think about the economic viability of our Black community, remember the best thing we can do is financially support our businesses. Consistently.”

Sam Jordan's Bar

4004 3rd Street, San Francisco, California

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