The former Armory Club space always sported a not-so-subtle sexy undercurrent, thanks to its association with that infamous San Francisco landmark just across the street. But as of this month, there’s a new bar open in the space and it’s backed by a cadre of nightlight industry pros from around the Bay Area.
Called Dahlia Lounge, the bar comes primarily from the minds of Paul Volfovski, whose past projects include Copyright and Trademark bars, and Kingston Wu, known for his role in bringing bars including Westwood and Thriller Social Club to life. Volfovski says the vision is for Dahlia Lounge to up the ante on the cocktail offerings in the area, but also to make the bar a true neighborhood destination with a full lineup of programming and happy hour offered five days a week. Volfovski, who grew up in San Francisco, says it’s been a challenge to open at this time, but he felt called to fill a niche in the city. “For me, I just felt the city is underserved and I really didn't want to take a chance on missing something,” Volfovski says.
On the menu, look for a tight but ever-changing list of cocktails including options like the Reggae, a rum-based, tiki-style cocktail made with orgeat, lime, and pineapple. General manager Nic Callahan wrote the menu, which also offers up the Grunge, a smokey concoction built on rye, earthy Bonal, and apricot and elderflower liqueurs. There’s also the option to go Punk and let the bartender pour you a shot and beer for $12. Wine and Champagne stand by for those not looking for something spirit-based; there’s beer on tap from neighborhood favorite Standard Deviant, plus more options by the bottle.
As for the space, Volfovski says the team tapped an old friend’s company Trust Maintenance for the buildout. Those familiar with Armory Club will recognize some features like the tin ceiling tiles, glowing bar tops, and damask wallpaper. But Volfovski has given the two rooms — the large rectangular front bar and a quieter back room down a short hallway — a refresh for the Instagram era. There’s a mantle dripping with wax from flickering candles and a semi-circle booth where patrons can pose under a neon sign reading “hola papi” surrounded by a wall of faux flowers. Another wall is stacked with skulls and finished with another cheeky sign threatening “till death do us party.”
“It’s always been all about the details,” Volfovski says of the decor. “I just wanted to create an environment and a vibe where our drinks and cocktail program add every step of the way, but you also get that from the space itself.” The name Dahlia Lounge is a nod to the Mission neighborhood, but Volfovski is careful to add that it’s not a Mexican bar or tequila lounge. They plan to host a range of events from comedy shows to live DJs to networking events to jazz and hip hop nights; he’s adamant Dahlia Lounge can be both a destination bar and a true neighborhood watering hole where people can expect something slightly different every night. “Consistency is good,” Volfovski says. “But consistent diversity is better.”
Aside from Volfovski and Wu, the braintrust behind the bar includes Arash Ghanadan (Novella, Barbarossa), Trung Tran (Heroes, Hometown Bowl), local club promoter Randy Guila, and Matthew Tuffuor and Warren Jones, the duo behind Toasted Life. Assistant general manager Gio Robles, a longtime bartender, will be managing VIP Experiences, Volfovski adds. “I know who I can tap into in the partnership for certain things,” Volfovski says of the partners behind the bar. “We have a lot of creativity and a lot of experience on the team.”
Dahlia Lounge (1799 Mission Street) is now open from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday.