A new cocktail bar designed around the idea of celebrating Oakland’s culture and history through art started slinging drinks in Uptown Oakland on June 24. Dubbed Night Heron, so named after the town’s official bird the black-crowned night heron, the bar debuted Friday helmed by industry vets Sequoya Lee of Honor Bar and Miss Ollie’s and Cory Hunt of First Edition and San Francisco’s Soda Popinski’s. The duo brings their bar and artist backgrounds to the space in full force, building a surprising drink menu centered around draft cocktails and selecting expressive art grounded in diversity, activism, and the history of Oakland.
The team created 17 cocktails for the menu which splits drinks into three categories. “Downtown” options will be served on the rocks, and “Uptown” cocktails will be served up, while “Old Oakland” drinks will stick to low- or no-alcohol options. Eight of the cocktail options will be available on tap, and the decision stems partially from practicality, a way for drinks to “reach guests more quickly,” a press release points out — but they’re not the simple, three-ingredient drinks one might expect on draft. Instead, expect to down drinks like the Milk & Honey, which is offered on draft, and made with whiskey, rum, fino sherry, grapefruit, black tea, and tamarind then clarified with coconut milk. Meanwhile, the Super Brava will be mixed to order, and combines mezcal, whiskey, Bruto Americano, garam masala, orgeat, and lime over ice; the Girl Who Cried Champagne, meanwhile, combines vodka with butterfly pea flower syrup, lemon, and Champagne, arriving garnished with a coconut Thai herb popsicle.
The Super Hyphy offers a low-ABV option; it’s a seasonal, no-waste sangria with proceeds going to the Yellowhammer Fund and Access Reproductive Justice, two non-profits focusing on abortion rights. There will also be a handful of (mostly) local beer and wine options, including ales from Federation Brewing and a pilsner from Temescal Brewing, pluswine from Livermore’s Longevity Wines and Richmond’s Subject To Change Wine Co.
There won’t be food made in Night Heron proper, but the bar teamed up with neighboring Itani Ramen to keep patrons fed: two bento boxes created for Night Heron will be available to order via a QR code and delivered to customers at the bar. The Niku Bento will feature chicken karaage and pork gyoza, while the Yasai Bento leans vegetarian-friendly with furikake garlic waffle fries and veggie gyoza. Both boxes also include edamame, seaweed salad, and senbei rice crackers and cost $20 each.
Lee, an artist with a background in community art practice and printmaking, curated the local art inside the 3,400-square-foot Night Heron space. Murals from artists (and brothers) Ian and Jared Jewthmal and Malaya Tuyay splash over the bar’s walls, along with a neon installation from Laura Stevenson and a print from Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party’s minister of culture.
It’s worth briefly noting the space was also the scene of a widely discussed NIMBY battle in 2019. Back then the space was home to Here’s How, a bar owned by Jennifer Colliau, who fought seven neighbors who lived in the apartment building above the bar space. There were complaints of “noise disturbances, loitering and smoking outside the premises” the Chronicle reported, all leading up to Here’s How’s eventual shutdown in February 2020, just 10 months after its opening. In the lead up to Hunt and Lee taking over the space and launching Night Heron, appeasements to neighbors were made, including promises to have security not only check identification at the door, but also keep patrons from disturbing the upstairs residents with smoke or noise, according to the San Francisco Business Times.
Update: July 1, 2022, 10:50 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of cocktails being offered on draft at Night Heron.
Night Heron (1780 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland) is open 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sundays.