There are few dive bar signs quite as epic as the one that hangs off of The 500 Club in San Francisco’s Mission district. The theme is familiar – a martini glass atop the name of the bar – but the scale of the piece is distinct, towering over the small building below. The sign is inscribed with the words “Open 6:00 AM” but don’t be fooled, the hours aren’t quite that generous (11 AM during the week, 9 AM on weekends). Opened in 1953, The 500 Club is a legit Mission icon, the perfect kind of neighborhood dive bar for what is a vibrant San Francisco neighborhood. The persistence of the sign and the dive bar it’s attached to is a success story in a city that has seen rising real estate values and a global pandemic shutter more than one historic city dive bar.
The 500 Club was in fact sold in 2018 but mercifully fell into the hands of current owner Ali Razavi who pledged to enhance but not fundamentally alter the dive bar. Original leather booths still line the space under a patchwork of frame photos and a sloped ceiling. The bar is still original, though it has been sanded, stained and varnished since the dive bar’s purchase. And maybe most importantly, the vibe inside is intact, a wood-lined communal dive bar feeling complete with affordable drinks in a city that is often anything but affordable.