If you’ve ever longed for conversation in the warm embrace of a richly decorated living room, slouched in a leather armchair, perhaps, with a fire flickering at your feet, there’s an outdoor setup in the Financial District that’s just for you. Danielle Kuzinich opened San Francisco Wine Society on January 29, a year after the previous wine bar there, the Hidden Vine, closed its doors. At the Wine Society, the vibe that the Hidden Vine was known for has been extended outdoors, with a parklet setup that so closely mimics a luxe home library it’s easy to forget you’re downtown on Merchant Street.
When the Hidden Vine’s owners decided not to renew their lease last spring, the building’s landlords got in touch with Kuzinich — as the Hidden Vine’s manager, she ran just about everything for the bar over the years, from the buildout of the space to its menu, wine inventory, and staffing — to see if she would be interested in managing something new in the space for them. Instead, Kuzinich secured her own lease for the address and got to work on her own wine bar, San Francisco Wine Society.
The Hidden Vine, open for nearly 10 years, was known for its bocce court and cozy living room-style atmosphere in the middle of the FiDi. For Kuzinich, it was imperative the outdoor space be equally comfortable. “If we were going to ask people to sit out front on the street, I wanted it to feel as cozy as if they were sitting inside,” she told Eater.
Kuzinich set out to curate all new furniture — no easy feat during a pandemic — tapping “everywhere from Restoration Hardware to Ross, with a ton of thrift stores in between.” The space is dotted with small details, items like a 1983 Hitachi cassette player (soon to be refurbished so guests can select music from a collection of cassettes), old books on music, art, and culture, vintage wallpaper, and framed photos, as well as centerpiece items like four chandeliers and two fireplaces, designed and painted by Kuzinich. The parklet structure is built out over two parking spaces — it’s 40 feet in length and seven feet wide — completely open on one side, with a sun shade-like drape along the other side. The parklet buildout will continue into two more parking spaces permitted to the bar.
Another thing that was imperative to Kuzinich? That the parklet setup is welcoming to solo diners. “One of my favorite things to do is sit at a restaurant bar by myself. I wanted to ensure people felt comfortable doing that here.” Beyond just feeling comfortable, Kuzinich wanted to offer forms of entertainment for those visiting alone, an alternative to scrolling on their phone — books, cassettes, other visual details to inspect. She’s seen a few customers crack a book and settle in, which she considers a win.
Seats in the parklet can be reserved, including those in front of the fireplaces. San Francisco Wine Society is open at 408 Merchant Street Tuesday through Saturday, from 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and until 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.