Mission Street nightlife

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By Simon J. Lau


One thing that surprised me upon returning to San Francisco from my stint in New York was just how far the Mission District had developed since I left. When I first moved to San Francisco in 2007, few people if any proposed meeting in the Mission besides an occasional (daytime) burrito run. The Mission District was still a very rough neighborhood and lacked a vibrant nightlife. Fast-forward a few years and by my return in 2012 the neighborhood had become a weekend and nightlife destination. With countless bars, lounges, and restaurants, people from all walks of life and all corners of San Francisco converged here each day and each night.

Looking back, it’s not surprising to see how the Mission District developed into a hip neighborhood. As our guest writer, Mariela, discussed in her article, Reimagining My Grandmother’s Mission District, “the Mission was an affordable alternative to the more established neighborhoods with quick access to Financial District and highway access to the Peninsula (not to mention a warm microclimate to boot).” Given these attractive characteristics, it was only a matter of time before the Mission District’s broad appeal attracted a new and growing fan base. This led to investments into new development and the renovation of historic spaces.

Despite the obvious issues associated with gentrification, the Mission District has become much more accessible to many more people in and around San Francisco and the larger Bay Area. As a local history junkie, one of my personal favorites includes the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema located in the former Idle Hour Theater (now the New Mission Theater). It’s an arthouse cinema that features many independent films. Similar to the Sundance Kabuki in Japantown, there is a bar here and it serves food and drinks during showings. It’s a fun space and in reverence to its history, it has been nicely renovated to preserve many of the building’s historic features.


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