At Bus Stop Saloon, a 122-year-old sports bar and Cow Hollow neighborhood fixture, the bathrooms needed attention. For more than 100 years, women were stuck with just one stall while men enjoyed customary male privilege with a toilet and two urinals to choose from. Neither bathroom was compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, meaning the lavatories were not designed to ensure access to people with disabilities.
Now, however, new owners Joseph Wallace and Robert Lemons are celebrating their one year anniversary of owning the bar with a massive, more than $300,000 dollar shoot-the-moon bathroom redesign. “There are some great bones that make the place up,” Wallace says. “But it got to the point where you’re toeing the line between keeping the bar a certain way and giving customers a good experience.”
Following the required COVID-induced closure, the two reopened Bus Stop in June 2021 with a plan to maintain the historic charm of the bar while catapulting the space into the modern era. The bathrooms were the most obvious way to speed things up (though it’s perhaps worth nothing ownership did miss the chance to provide gender-inclusive restrooms).
Bus Stop is the kind of place where it’s clear the same family owned the bar for four generations, which is the literal case. But the 400-odd square feet of total bathroom acreage is now tiled in black and white with walls papered in (albeit gendered) playful images. The women’s restroom, now with an extra stall and up to ADA standards, is covered in photos of women protesting during Prohibition with signs proclaiming things such as “We Want Beer!” Wallace spoke about the redesign with his team, and a few of the women on staff pointed out the archetypical sports bar can be an unwelcoming environment for women and non-male identifying folks. “One of the biggest reasons we did this redesign was for the women who come in,” Wallace says. “We wanted to give them a better experience than what they’d had in the old bathroom.”
The men’s restroom is plastered with old sports cards — a quilt of pros combining a smiling bleach-haired Dennis Rodman in a Spurs jersey just above Giants’ catcher Kirt Manwaring — that the co-owner collected growing up. Wallace hit up his mom who, for some reason, still had all his old cards at the family house. The men’s restroom is also ADA compliant, though Wallace laughs while wondering if any young patrons will know who the majority of the athletes on the wall even are. “I think they’re the most expensive bathrooms in San Francisco,” Wallace says. “It felt like an impossible task.”
The bar has gone through numerous repairs and renovations in its more than 120 years of operation. On this latest, and grandest, tearing down the walls unveiled surprise after surprise: a random layer of foundation no one anticipated, rusted pipes leading nowhere, and more. Wallace and Lemons, in addition to their Zillenial bathroom fantasy, are making other changes, such as a weekend-only beer and shot bar in the back of the space. Faucets and lights are still going in, just finishing touches, but the bar is ready to bring customers back in. During football season the owners order food to ply patrons with tacos and the ilk for free, and they’ve brought in a few comedy nights, too. “We want to give the neighborhood things to look forward to,” Wallace says. “Now that we don’t have [portable toilets] outside.”