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Food & Drink

7 great San Francisco bars for large groups

Patrons enjoy drinks at Local Edition in Downtown San Francisco. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

Are you and your friends planning a last-minute get-together? Did you suddenly decide your apartment is just too small to host the gathering you’ve been planning for weeks? Sometimes you just need to find a bar where you can bring a large group on short notice—and ideally, a place where you won’t be sandwiched cheek-by-jowl at a long, conversation-inhibiting bar or stuck standing in the corner, praying for one of a few tables to open up.

Thankfully, with the most bars per capita of any large American city, San Francisco is a soggy town. And there are plenty of watering holes where you can—usually—stumble in with a large group pretty easily. Here are a few options for you and your spontaneous party to pull up a chair and enjoy a round of drinks. Cheers!

Alcohol sits ready to be prepared for customers at Thriller Social Club. | Courtesy Joey Mucha (Joey the Cat)

Thriller Social Club | SoMa 

📍 508 Fourth St.

This bar-plus-arcade is great when you’re looking to escape your adult responsibilities

The two-story spot, inspired by The Greatest Showman, boasts an array of multiplayer classics like Whack-A-Mole as well as more novel multiplayer games (think basketball meets Connect4). A towering bar that looks tall enough to hold up a circus tent offers 360-degree seating where friends can knock back playful drinks while noshing on carnival food classics with an adult twist. Think cocktails topped with toy soldiers and French fries dusted with an addictive nori-ranch powder. Tables surrounding the bar are long enough for about five or six pals to swap stories and slice up Thriller’s juicy 13-inch-long hot dog to share. It’s easy to find your crew a spot on a weeknight, but reservations are recommended for a good time—and guaranteed space—on the weekends.    

Zeitgeist | Mission 

📍 199 Valencia St.

Some may say that you can’t call yourself a true San Franciscan unless you’ve been to Zeitgeist. Drinking at the gritty Mission dive bar is considered a rite of passage by some, so why not complete the ritual of becoming a full-fledged local by raising a glass with your pals in the establishment’s beloved beer garden? And it’s got plenty of picnic tables.     

Steven Vost, left, and Liam Tran, right, chat over drinks at Local Edition in Downtown San Francisco. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Local Edition | SoMa 

📍 691 Market St. 

It takes many hands to make a newsroom run, and this classy newspaper-themed bar in the belly of the historic Hearst Building has plenty of booths and hightops to house a small army of journalists. (We know from, erm, previous assignments that have taken us there.) But you don’t have to be a member of the fourth estate to party like a media tycoon. While reservations are recommended, simply showing your ID to the bouncer at the top of the stairs is enough to get you in the door on most nights. Boasting a spacious dance floor, there’s also ample room to cut a rug to the bars’ steady roster of jazz ensembles and big bands. 

Savoy Tivoli | North Beach 

📍 1434 Grant Ave.

This 100-plus-year-old bar once hosted turn-of-the-century sailors and avant-garde beat poets. Now the rebirthed bar, which reopened in 2022 after taking a four-year pause, in part due to the pandemic, is ready for your entourage. The North Beach staple’s Yelp description boasts “two full bars, three pool tables and plenty of tables and chairs in this large gathering space” and does not take reservations—so there’s no need to worry about being organized. Just come as you are.

Evil Eye | Mission 

📍 2937 Mission St. 

Is lounging with a cocktail more your style? The Mission’s Evil Eye has plenty of leather couches and low-slung chairs to choose from, so you won’t get any side-eye if you lean back and relax with a couple of friends in tow. Evil Eye is purposefully designed to feel like a living room if—you know—Stevie Nicks appointed it

White Rabbit | Marina

📍 3138 Fillmore St. 

The Marina’s White Rabbit has a similar ’70s lounge vibe, with psychedelic murals and several plush couches where you and your crew can sprawl out pretty easily on weeknights. (Weekends can be more challenging, so arriving before 8 p.m. on Saturdays is advised.) 

Today the cocktail lounge hosts live bands and DJs at least three times a week, but back in the day its predecessor, the Matrix, played host to musical legends like the Grateful Dead, the Doors and Jefferson Airplane, whose song “White Rabbit” gives the bar its name. Big enough and cool enough groups can score access to White Rabbit’s VIP lounge, which can house 30-some people comfortably and has its own dedicated bar and bartender. 

But neither a reservation nor a palmed C-note will get you into this secluded space, Boon Johnson, guest relations manager for Plumpjack Group, which oversees White Rabbit, tells The Standard. Rather, a nice attitude toward the staff and good behavior might get you and your pals in the private backroom. “If you’re coming in entitled, it’s not offered to you,” Johnson said. “Be polite. Build a relationship with the host. Then the red carpet will be rolled out for you.” 

a dive bar patio by day
Customers enjoy drinks in the back patio at Casements bar on Mission Street in San Francisco. | Paul Chinn/The Chronicle via Getty | Source: Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Casements | Mission 

📍 2351 Mission St. 

This modern-day Irish pub, specializes in food and drink with an international flair. The airline-themed cocktail menu offers an Irish Espresso Martini and a nonalcoholic Irish Coffee (Without the Irish) as well as a Mexican-style Paloma and a spritz that nods to North Beach’s Italian roots. Smaller quartets or quintets can cozy up in Casements’ leather booths and bigger groups can head to Casement’s heated outdoor patio for lots of space to nosh and imbibe.  

No reservations are necessary, but if you’re planning to bring a group of six or more, the bar may be able to reserve a spot for your pack ahead of time.  

Christina Campodonico can be reached at

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