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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bouncer Laments the Loss of Grasslands, a Once-Legit Dive

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 4:45 PM

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From this week's Bouncer column:

Anyone who has been following this column knows that I don't abide fools who throw around the word "dive" to describe bars that are decidedly not dives. If a place has hipster cachet, a working digital jukebox, or microbrewed beers, it is not a goddamn dive, no matter how disgusting the bathrooms are.

There truly are only a handful of real dives in this town, and we lost a great one several months ago. Grasslands, at its peak, was mother of all shitholes. It had it all: empty boxes, giant bags of rice, and plain ol' trash lining the walls and piled on the tables; huddled masses of men playing Chinese tile games; crotchety, foul-mouthed, over-the-hill bartenders who treated you like shit or told filthy jokes and gave you free beer; a jukebox that was never plugged in; and its jewel in the crown, a sign out front that read, "Grasslands: Where good friends and girls meet." There is much debate and lore about just who these "girls" were. Some thought Grasslands was a hostess bar, where attractive women would make lonely sippers feel appreciated enough to keep buying drinks. Others said it was an actual brothel, with the ladies occupying the back room. I could never get to the bottom of this mystery, because most of the time I tried to revisit Grasslands, it was closed.

Well, the good news is that Grasslands is no longer closed and is open daily for business. The bad news is that it is under new management, and these newbies seem to think that cleanliness, digital jukeboxes, flatscreen TVs, and friendly bar staff are what people want. Curses!

I began muttering to myself before I even stepped over the threshold. The sign out front has been redone. Now it just says Grasslands in a sleek font with a stylized martini glass; you and your good friends are now on your own if you want to meet girls. Grasslands will no longer be facilitating.

I peered inside, and the pretty young bartender waved at me. I waved back sheepishly, eyeing the decor with suspicion. I couldn't seem to get my foot in the door. I teetered.

A few doors down there was a line outside of the foodie-drone House of Nanking. The food there is just okay, people. Its staff treats you like cattle, shuttling you in and plunking down dishes they make over and over again until all the flavors start to blur. No one from Chinatown actually eats there. I wanted to hand out pamphlets to Yuet Lee on Stockton. Then it hit me. Good gravy, would Grasslands become the House of Nanking of bars? Was it trying to?

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

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Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Katy St. Clair @BouncerSF, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.

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Katy St. Clair

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