Doug Dalton, former Netscape engineer, now the ‘bar-chitect’ behind Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse and more, has done nothing less than revolutionise the cocktail bar culture in San Francisco. As well as owning five bars in the city, he is the co-founder of Future Bars, a consultancy company that offers expertise in bar design, development, operation, entertainment and marketing to hotels. Some of its clients include The Ritz Carlton and The W San Francisco. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve heard rumour Dalton hangs out with the young rock star entrepreneurs behind Instagram and Digg, as well as a few actual rock stars too”¦ We can’t think of anyone better to chat to about the San Francisco nightlife, can you?
What are some of your favourite new spots in the city?
Chambers, at the Phoenix Hotel: rock and roll history, refined. It’s low key and the bar food is on another level. The Bar Agricole‘s interior and cocktail programme are outstanding – also, the bar is open until it’s empty. And finally, 620 Jones – for the killer outdoor space near Union Square, perfect to spend the night under the stars, or more – usually the blankets and heaters.
What about classics – places with history and old-school San Francisco character?
The Warfield Theatre, where a basement speakeasy and Al Capone’s office once were – it’s been a San Francisco institution for 86 years. And the House of Shields – it’s over 100 years old and still very cool. There’s a tradition there of having no clock on the premises, or a TV.
San Francisco loves the bizarre. What’s the weirdest, coolest event in this city?
The Lost Horizon Night Market, where box trucks are transformed into restaurants, bars and odd stores. It’s all very secretive and exciting. Or the Survival Research Lab‘s shows. Giant fire-breathing robots! I don’t think you can get much weirder!
You have a several friends in town: A) Just-retired bon vivants, B) A frisky 25 year-old and C) ultra-hip 30-something parents with kids in tow. Where would you send each of them fora good time?
Bon vivants: Rye – a great cocktail bar and cool downtown scene. For the frisky 25 year-old: Rickshaw Stop for Popscene on Thursdays. Great scene and music. Hip 30-somethings with kids: Prospect – for the incredible food, cocktails and atmosphere.