34-year-old rock venue and onetime gay bar Kimo’s (1351 Polk Street) — which has seen the likes of Metallica and many other local bands on its tiny stage — is changing hands again in January, and according to the current owners the new owners might not be hip to preserving its rock-and-roll legacy. “My gut feeling is that they’re going to make it into a cocktail lounge,” says owner Tony Malson of the new owners. Malson and partner Lynn Star took the place over in 2008 and have been booking a mix of music acts — and the occasional drag show — there ever since. Malson tells SF Weekly he had no intention of selling, but ever since there’s been a moratorium on new liquor licenses on Polk Street, he’s been approached with multiple offers, and this one was obviously too good to pass up.
Kimo’s began life as a gay bar in 1978 owned by Kimo Cochran, who decided to book more rock shows there in the eighties as AIDS and demographic shifts in the neighborhood moved most of the gay population out of Polk Gulch toward the Castro and elsewhere. The Metallica appearance happened later, in 2002, when the band played a secret show there under the name Spun.
There will be a farewell concert for Kimo’s on New Year’s Eve, after which it may soon be artisanal cocktail time at this longtime grunge haven. “From the tranny sitting at the end of the bar, to a hustler on the corner, to rock ‘n’ roll playing upstairs, for me that was a big definition of San Francisco,” Malson says. And it’s all too true that that San Francisco is getting harder and harder to find.