San Francisco is more than 5,000 miles away from the birthplace of English soul singer Amy Winehouse. But at Vic’s Winehouse on Fillmore Street, you can find a tiny temple of sorts to the late and incandescent songstress.
The boho chic wine bar is appointed with cozy velvet couches and decorated with an assortment of Winehouse memorabilia—including collectible tour passes and specially commissioned paintings of the vocalist. There’s even a place of honor for the leopard print skirt that Winehouse wore to the 2008 Brit Awards. Posters and images of other influential female artists, including Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Janis Joplin, also hang on the walls.
“It's really like my bedroom or my living room filled with my favorite things, my favorite artist. And that's kind of the feeling hopefully people get,” said Victoria Wasserman, the Vic in Vic’s Winehouse and its proprietor. You could also say she’s the wine bar’s resident act.
Every few months, Wasserman with her Amy Winehouse tribute ensemble, The Back to Black Band, plays covers of Winehouse’s music. On Friday, they will hold a birthday celebration show for the late singer, who would have turned 39 on Wednesday. (Winehouse tragically died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27.)
Expect a mix of Winehouse classics like “Rehab” and “Back to Black” but also deeper cuts and a few “surprises,” including some archival footage of Winehouse and some new memorabilia. While Wasserman does dress up like Winehouse for the sets—beehive hair, winged eyeliner and all—she says her intention is not to copy or mimic the late singer. Rather, her aim is to keep Winehouse’s music, which has moved her so deeply over the years, “alive.”
“It's just to connect to the words and bring that through to the audience,” Wasserman said.
The bar has also played a role in keeping Wasserman’s own musical dreams alive. The musician—who set out to create an Amy Winehouse tribute band 13 years ago and ultimately made San Francisco the group’s home base—opened Vic’s last year as part of a pandemic pivot and stroke of serendipity.
When bars and clubs shut down due to the pandemic, many musicians, like Wasserman, had to face a world without gigs and forge a new path. So she decided that if the bar she’d had her eye on went up for sale on Fillmore Street, she’d buy it. Two weeks later, it did, and Vic’s Winehouse was born.
“Opportunity arose,” Wasserman said. “I just had to put myself into a future possibility.”
Broken pipes, a flood and many permitting headaches later, Vic’s Winehouse has just made its past its first birthday, and Wasserman hopes that it will be around to continue celebrating more milestones.
Although both sets of Friday’s show are sold out, there will be future shows and Wasserman encourages devotees of Winehouse to stop by. Sometimes there are no-shows, and lovers of Winehouse are always welcome to come by and pour one out for the late, great songstress.
The Amy Winehouse Birthday Tribute at Vic’s Winehouse happens at 7 and 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16 at 1870 Fillmore St. Tickets are $25. 21+ only.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org