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Friday, July 29, 2011

Bouncer Examines the Friendliness at Zeki's Bar

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2011 at 8:46 AM

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From this week's Bouncer column:

I have always been fascinated with why we believe the things we believe. Initially I got caught up in the impossible-to-answer question, "How do you know you are right about something?" How can you be so sure of something that sounds insane to someone else (for example, the existence of UFOs, Jesus, or trickle-down economics)? When I meet people who have what I consider nutty ideas, it naturally calls into question the things I firmly believe in: If these people are so certain, then how can I be so certain, too? I still don't have a good answer. So I have moved on to the next profundity: How do we develop our beliefs in the first place?

The latest theory that makes sense is the idea that we are born with a set of idea portals in our brains, and when a certain perfectly shaped theory comes along, it pops in with a satisfying thwunk. In other words, we have a blueprint based on our innate morality and aspirations, and when we are given evidence to support it, we latch on. Over time, our beliefs are fleshed out into whatever political party, ashram, Chamber of Commerce, or Battlestar Galactica appreciation thread we join. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a good example. He once said that he had no concept about American "Republicanism" when he was growing up in Austria, but once he got out here and was exposed to its philosophies, he said to himself, "Ach! Finally! Zis is vat I have always been thinking!"

Every time a new bar crops up in S.F., the folks behind it are trying to find brains to meld with. They want the right people to wander and in and feel a satisfying thwunk that will translate into cash money being spent in their new home-away-from-home. More than any other service-oriented business (restaurants, salons, spas), bars depend on making you feel welcome so you will return again and again to share the intimacy of intoxication. And just as I can walk into one bar and feel an immediate need to exit, others will enter that same space and finally feel they have "arrived."

Zeki's Bar in Nob Hill redesigned itself about a year ago. Let me first confess that I never went to the old Zeki's, so I only know this new version, which is pleasant enough. It is clean and sleek yet cozy, with various browns from the Pantone color wheel and mixed textures like leather and wood. In short, it is like many other newly redesigned bars in this town: Goldrush Chic.

There is always a hopeful exuberance in a newly thought-out bar, and no matter what experience I have, I always wish the owners the best, because it reminds me that their asses are probably on the line financially. However, you have to ask yourself just which preprogrammed brains a bar is trying to attract. I set out to try and solve that riddle at Zeki's last week...

... continue reading this week's Bouncer column.

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Katy St. Clair

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