Preserving North Beach history, one martini at a time: the story of Tony Nik’s bar | Culture

Tony Nik’s feels like putting on your preferred sweater. Absolutely sure, it retains you warm. But it can be the convenience and coziness that helps make it specific.

The North Beach bar has been one of San Francisco’s beloved sweaters for decades now, setting up way back again in 1933 when its initial proprietors threw open the doors to celebrate the stop of Prohibition. Virtually a century later, the place is going potent. When it reopened following an extended pandemic closure very last June, community locals lined the streets ready to get in. 

It can be that kind of position. And it is not likely everywhere, many thanks to Sebastian Scala. The bar’s longtime common manager and most important barkeep took ownership of Tony Nik’s on June 29, possessing purchased the area from longtime homeowners Mark Nicco and Dan Kent. All functions included reported they felt this was the ideal matter to do. As Scala place it for the duration of a modern sit-down, “There is nobody on this planet of 7.7 billion people today who intimately understands what works listed here and what won’t get the job done below greater than myself.”

What performs is the atmosphere. I begun coming to the position (located at 1534 Stockton St.) in the 1990s and it right away turned one of my favorites in all of San Francisco. It has a throwback, snug vibe that evokes classier periods. The days of hats and heels and ice cold martinis. The temper lighting retains points chill, and the songs in no way overwhelms. You can sit belly up to the bar, wherever Sebastian normally chats everybody up and keeps the beverages shifting. Or you can lounge on the funky banquets in the back below a mural that dates again to 1949 and a parquet wall that ties it all with each other. Tony Nik’s is a temper, all ideal. A superior temper. 

And the greatest information of all? Scala just isn’t arranging on modifying substantially. He speaks of subtle alterations, but the main ambiance will continue being the exact same.

“It can be a public household. It can be a conference area. It can be harmless, in a world that receives a lot more and much more unsafe,” mentioned Scala, describing his eyesight of Tony Nik’s appeal. “It can be a put that is at ease in which you can sit and have a consume with self confidence and know that the human being upcoming to you isn’t ridiculous or goofy or everything else. A person of the points that I delight myself on, and our employees prides itself on, is that a solitary female can walk in here and sense comfy owning a drink. Once again, it can be at ease and secure. That is what we want to cultivate. That’s what we want to dangle our hats on.”

A person minor stage of rivalry is the growing old indication that hangs out entrance of the bar. It’s been in a charming state of disrepair for many years. Scala plans to restore it. Some individuals have complained about the approach, expressing it’s a regional landmark, just as it is. But Scala would like to spruce it up. 

“It really is gonna be the identical indication,” explained Scala. “But I think that a indication should illuminate and appeal to. It has two capabilities in lifetime. And I feel it shed its illumination and it struggled with attraction. Some people are intimidated by it. … One of my customers is a wonderful guy named Nick, a retired law enforcement officer. I was chatting to him and he was in opposition to (restoring) it, initially. But then he stated, ‘I marvel what it appeared like when it labored, when it was purposeful and undertaking its job?’ So which is what I actually want to do. I genuinely want to restore it. Make it pop.”

It is really reassuring to see Scala assume possession of this gem, in essence preserving 1 of The City’s good watering holes. For people of us who have been in this article for a though, which is vital. Also a lot of of our fantastic bars have vanished, places like the Elbo Space and Chameleon in the Mission. Or Portal’s Tavern in West Portal. We all lose a tear, or a beer, when Sector Avenue dive bar Lucky 13 shut down in December. And I miss out on me some Lefty O’Douls, far too. 

But Tony Nik’s remains, not much too far from other North Beach front mainstays like Gino & Carlo, Specs’ and Vesuvio Cafe. People are the 4 horsemen of the North Beach front bar scene, in my reserve. (Shout out to my buddies at LaRocca’s Corner, also.)

Scala lives a handful of blocks from his bar, with his spouse, Mary, and two small children, Giuseppe (16) and Savona (10). He coaches baseball, volleyball and basketball, and has a passion for wrestling, which he pursued as an athlete in his younger decades. He peppers his dialogue with “Sebastianisms,” clever sayings and truisms that make the guy a born bartender. 

In phrases of how he would make Tony Nik’s function, he fell back again on his grappling job context. “So, in this industry, you cannot be everything for everybody. I wrestled for 16 several years and men and women would arrive up to me and say, ‘You ought to know 1,000 moves.’ I would look at them and go, ‘No, I know 4 moves truly very well. And that’s type of like this business. You want to seriously establish a area of interest and match into that. For us, that market is is a snug, protected ecosystem the place you know you are gonna get a nicely-crafted cocktail, you are gonna get a fantastic dialogue and you know you can be listened to.”

Amen to that. 

Conversing to Scala reminds you of how essential North Seaside is to San Francisco. Like quite a few of our other quaint villages, it held agency via the pandemic, trying to keep San Francisco’s cloth stitched with each other. 

“I convey to people this all the time. North Seaside is like Mayberry R.F.D.,” stated Scala, referring to the fictional dwelling of TV’s “Andy Griffith Demonstrate.” “You will find one thing about the local community, the folks that continue to be. We develop into an enclave, we become a really a modest city, a Mayberry. Any kid going for walks down the avenue, if I you should not know him, he’s on vacation. You will find some thing about this group. That is why we are in this article. … When I uncover out somebody just moved below, I usually say, ‘You just won a successful lottery ticket.'”

And they can dollars it in at Tony Nik’s.