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Dawn Club - San Francisco

Historic bar returns to downtown San Francisco

Dawn Club returns Wednesday to the Monadnock building on Market Street, bringing back regular jazz performances and an extensive catalog of whiskey to the same space where it operated until 1946. It’s the latest effort from Future Bars, which owns 12 other drinking establishments, mostly concentrated downtown, including another in the same building, Lark Bar, and one in the Hearst Building around the corner, retro newspaper-inspired Local Edition.

Ocean hued walls and elegant mocha-toned banquettes help set the mood for the evening. White marble tables look like small stages, illuminated with gold hued lamps. A glass mural behind the bar created by local artist Ivan Lee Mora represents the sun at dawn. Sheehy, Future Bars co-owner Doug Dalton and company architect Andrea Gifford collaborated in designing the interior, constructing the stage and its acoustics in conjunction with musicians. 

Whiskeys are key to the Dawn Club’s original period — during Prohibition it operated as a speakeasy —  and the new bar offers an extensive list of bourbons, Scotches, Irish single-malts and premium international offerings from Australia and Israel, all offered in 2-ounce pours. Visitors looking to explore a specific style can sample Japanese whiskeys, ryes and smoke-free Scotches, among other spirit flights like mezcal and gins from around the world.

High-end selections include Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year, which can run up to $10,000 a bottle; Dawn Club will offer a single 2-ounce pour for $300. (There are plenty of pours in the $14 to $20 range, too.) The venue has a stock of prized bottles after years of special allocations for Future Bars venues, and with the opening of the Dawn Club, Sheehy believes it’s time to break them out.

“None of our bars has a collection of whiskeys this extensive or this expensive,” he said. 

The cocktail list is relatively brief, with a few original cocktails named for jazz musicians. The Hot Seven ($22), named after one of Louis Armstrong’s bands, is made with rye bourbon, pineapple, lime maraschino and orange bitters. The Ella Fitz ($20) includes vodka, elderflower aperol and lavender in a chic tulip flute glass. 

Bar director Jayson Wylde dove into recipe books from the era to recreate some beverages dating back to Prohibition and the 1940s. The Lion’s Tail ($20) is made with bourbon, lime and demerara, while the tuxedo ($20) remains a classic blend of gin, dry vermouth and maraschino liqueur. Low-proof and nonalcoholic cocktails are also available. 

Now inside the new Dawn Club, customers — who must make a reservation and pay a ticket fee — will find an intimately lit environment where musicians still play swing, bebop and other jazz styles onstage for a capacity crowd of 125.


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