When it opens in a new, temporary home next month, Coit Liquors will become the lone business to return from a devastating St. Patrick’s Day Fire that wiped out an entire block in North Beach last year. The new location of the popular liquor store and neighborhood hub is in its final stages of opening at 1657 Powell Street in a former massage parlor space. That’s just around the corner from its original home at 585 Columbus Avenue (at the corner of Union) in a building that’s still boarded up and burned-out.
Coit Liquors manager Michael Reynolds says he’d just left a shift at 585 Columbus last St. Patrick’s Day — one of the busiest days of the year for the business — when a four-alarm fire on the 650 block of Union Street was reported. Soon, it engulfed Coit Liquors along with its neighbors, Ferry Plaza Seafood (653 Union), Tuk Tuk Thai Café (659 Union), the Salzburg (663 union), and Rogue Ales Public House (673 Union). The source of the fire was a kitchen without a sprinkler system, though the business to which it belonged wasn’t publicly identified in a report by the fire marshal.
Whether Coit Liquors’ neighbors will also return isn’t clear, but it’s unlikely. A representative for Rogue confirms that the business has no current plans to return to San Francisco. And according to sources familiar with the fire, no other businesses do, either.
Now, Reynolds is busy re-stocking Coit Liquors, whose entire inventory was burned up by the blaze. The store’s owner, Shadi Zughayar, has funded the new location himself, but to help it open, SF’s planning department granted a temporary rezoning of the 1657 Powell Street space.
Zughayar and Reynolds hope to open there by March 1 after a health and safety inspection. Once they do, they’ll need to renew their temporary liquor license every six months. And eventually, they plan to return to the Columbus Avenue/Union Street location, though that would be in five years at the soonest.
“It was basically a meeting spot,” says Reynolds of the former Coit Liquors location, which was already rebuilt once already after another fire in the building. “People would come in and maybe not buy anything, but all get together... I think it was mostly because the owner and I are very friendly people and were inviting and warm.”
With a weekend tasting license transferred to the new location, Reynolds hopes to foster that same atmosphere and crowd at the new, temporary Coit Liquors.
“It was super cool to watch their [Coit Liquors] sign go back up,” says Nick Floulis, the owner of forthcoming bar and restaurant Lillie Coit’s down the street at 1707 Powell. Before construction on Lillie Coit’s began, Floulis opened a pop-up, Doors Open, to benefit the businesses affected by the fire.
Doors Open “was successful in every way except financially,” Floulis says: He’d hoped to raise more money for the affected businesses, but in the end, is happy he was able to provide temporary jobs for those left without work, including Reynolds.
“He’s the finest example of what we’d hoped to achieve,” Floulis says.