In the era before ubiquitous smartphone flashlights, objects lost on the floor of the 711 Club stayed lost. It was a watering hole as dank as it was dark, and the ordeal of locating misplaced effects at ground level in such a place transcended mere impracticality. Like children raised in a home with a vicious dog, we knew better than to reach down from the table.
Some things just aren't worth finding.
At sundown on a Friday, it didn't take much to satisfy us. God knows the 711 Club wasn't much. And we were satisfied.
The energy saved in finding a creative name for a bar at 711 Market St. was most likely expended on duct tape to hold the furniture together. Looks hardly mattered, since the interior was eternally shrouded in darkness. The last wisps of light sneaking nervously in from Market Street would reveal Mary Tyler Moore-era glitter dotting the stucco walls, and playing cards randomly affixed to the ceiling. But once the heavy wood double-doors slammed behind you, that was wiped away. All you could discern in this dungeon was the trio of morose, interchangeable, androgynous bartenders, each with blond locks as tightly curled as rotini, and outfitted in white V-neck shirts nearly gleaming in the darkness.
The 711 may or may not have stocked any beer other than Bitburger. But that's all anyone seemed to order. Perhaps the first person ever served there ordered a Bitburger and every patron thereafter followed suit. The overriding impulse was to keep transactions with the bartenders as brief as possible as, to a man (?), powerful waves of morose, interchangeable B.O. wafted off them.
So, I'll have what he's having. Bitburger it is.
But that was satisfactory enough. The grenade-like glasses were large, and the beer was inexpensive. Bitburg, incidentally, was the site of the German military cemetery in which President Ronald Reagan felt the need to leave a wreath for the departed Waffen-SS. Drink enough Bitburger and you'll tell this story. Every Friday. And we were satisfied.
The amenities at the 711 were limited. But, in the era before ubiquitous smartphones, all we had to do was interact with our fellow human beings and lose things on the floor. There was a Ms. Pac Man table that grew magically irresistible after three steins of Bitburger, suggesting that the concept of beer goggles is applicable even to women who get turned on by eating fruit and ghosts.
That's actually a sexier menu than the one offered to the morlocks inhabiting this darkened lair. Food options consisted of pretzels ... and more pretzels. But people ate them — maybe. Between blackness and Bitburger, it's impossible to recall a single fellow patron.
Obviously, this was all too good to last. One Friday, we showed up at the 711 and a large padlock was hanging from the double-doors. In the sliver between them, we could make out, for the first time, the illuminated interior of the bar. It was like spotting your mother in a stag film. It was something no one ever needed to see.
The 711 was, without irony, converted into a 7-Eleven. They actually turn on the lights now. The employees bathe and make human expressions. There's a large freezer where Ms. Pac Man once held court, and pretzels now run 99 cents a pack. It's everything one could hope for in a 7-Eleven experience.
The bar that once stood here was a place neither great nor terrible in a city where things increasingly tend toward one extreme or the other. It was a memorable place to forget. It was uninviting but you couldn't stay away. Then it was gone.
Joe Eskenazi is a Staff Writer for SF Weekly.