After a few months running as a pop-up out of Oakland restaurant Hi Felicia, the provocatively-named natural wine bar Sluts is opening in its permanent home on Folsom Street in San Francisco. It’s a dream that chef Imana (who goes by her first name only) has held onto since before the opening days of her “vulgar” fine dining restaurant, one that’s finally coming to fruition as of opening night Friday, February 3.
While some may snicker or giggle at the head-turning name, Imana insists it’s symbolic in a multitude of ways, and emblematic of how she wants to represent herself right now: pushing boundaries, while simultaneously being avant-garde and controversial. Pointing to the male-dominated bar and wine industries, Imana says there’s something to reclaiming the meaning of slut from its derogatory origins. “I think the power is claiming it, and claiming womanhood, and feeling liberated and safe in my sexuality — it’s just a word that encompasses embracing who you are and not being shamed for being yourself, and I just wanted to find a way to tie that into a business,” she says.
Sluts is Imana’s first venture outside of her Oakland restaurant, and one that came with a few bumps in the road. But she’s fully immersed in the natural wine world and felt a wine bar is a “nice first step” on her journey of becoming a restaurateur and bar owner. Sluts is taking over the former Terroir space, which Imana considers a passing on of the natural wine bar torch.
The wine options are equal parts local and international. Imana namechecks labels such as Richmond’s Purity Wines and TyTy Wine, Lula, and Everwild as favorites. Some sake options, a “curated Madeira section” for those looking for a nightcap, and some nonalcoholic wines will round out the list. There’s no full-on food menu to speak of, the options instead consist of convenience store favorites to help soak up the evening’s drinking activities. Think Lean Cuisines, Flaming Hot Cheetos, Chips Ahoy, Cup Noodles, and Lunchables — which, hey, some have argued is just a child’s version of charcuterie boards.
Guests who enjoy the maximalist aesthetic of Hi Felicia won’t be disappointed here. Influences for the design include Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, who Imana says was on the bar’s mood board when drawing up plans for the space. Deep blues, purples, and gold, color the space with dramatic elements like purple curtains, naked garden statues, and chandeliers with blue light bulbs screwed in to continue down that sultry track. “It’s just sexy and moody and fun,” Imana says. “It’s the same as Hi Felicia in that way, but I wanted the two spaces to really play off of each other. I feel like Hi Felicia’s so maximal and Sluts honestly feels really minimal.”
Whether Sluts will feel “minimal” to visiting guests remains to be seen, but other elements might argue against that fact. In keeping with the Sluts theme, a stripper pole stands prominently in a window seating area, while neon work created by artist Meryl Pataky hangs behind the bar and winkingly asks, “Spit or Swallow?” in scrawling handwriting known well to Hi Felicia fans. The bathrooms meanwhile will be bathed in a deep purple glow, contrasting the splatter paint job and mirror balls strung up amongst the artwork, with fancy bathroom goodies like Tic Tacs, Tums, floss, and more to get yourself ready to head back into the fray. “I just want people to come and have a really, really good time,” Imana says. “I want people to have a place to be wild and crazy.”
Sluts (1116 Folsom Street) debuts Friday, February 3 and is open 5 p.m. to midnight on Thursday, Sunday, Monday, and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.