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Bruno’s music venue in the Mission could reopen soon

People stand in front of a boarded-up nightclub covered in graffiti.
People walk past Mission Street live music venue Bruno’s, which is slated to reopen in roughly a month after being closed since 2020. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

A historic Mission District nightclub that closed at the onset of the pandemic in 2020 is slated to reopen as soon as next month, according to a consultant involved in the bar’s reopening efforts.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution recommending the state issue a new liquor license for Bruno’s. The decades-old club at 2389 Mission St. is currently covered in plywood and graffiti and has become an eyesore since closing almost four years ago.

David Villa-Lobos, a liquor license consultant liaising with the city on behalf of the bar’s owner, said it will likely take another month for the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to formally issue the license, after which the bar will be able to reopen.

“It’s a done deal,” Villa-Lobos told The Standard on Wednesday. “Bruno’s is back in business.”

Supervisor Hillary Ronen lauded the return of Bruno’s, which had operated in the Mission for over 60 years before shutting down in March 2020. As if frozen in time, the nightclub’s website still greeted visitors on Wednesday with a message about postponing all events as the pandemic took hold.

People walk past a boarded-up nightclub covered in graffiti.
People walk past Mission Street live music venue Bruno's, which is slated to reopen after closing in 2020. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

"My office has been working hard to sustain the vibrancy and safety of the Mission corridor, and that includes supporting beloved small businesses like Bruno's,” Ronen said in a statement provided to The Standard. “I'm proud to support their efforts to reopen and return to the neighborhood." 

The license Bruno’s is seeking is a “Type 90” license, which was created under the Entertainment Venue Recovery Act, or SB 793, and designed to help live music venues easily get liquor licenses.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, who authored the legislation, said helping keep music venues open is important to the city’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

“Live music venues like Bruno’s keep communities vibrant,” Wiener told The Standard on Wednesday. “I’m thrilled the law we enacted helped deliver for a business that will help keep San Francisco fun.”

Without the new type 90 license, Villa-Lobos said Bruno’s would likely have to pay around $250,000 for an existing Type 48 license from another business because the club is located in a “Restricted Use District,” which prevents any new Type 48 licenses from being issued.

“And that’s easier said than done,” Villa-Lobos said.

New Type 90 licenses cost $19,000, according to Ben Van Houten, a business development manager in the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Previously, Bruno’s was operating as a nightclub serving alcohol under a liquor license meant for restaurants, which caps alcohol sales at 50% of its total revenue. The bar closed in the early days of the pandemic, but having the improper license and issues getting a new one kept the bar shuttered, according to Villa-Lobos.

“I’m for anything that’ll liven up Mission Street,” resident Ali Aldridge said as she waited for the 14 Muni bus in front of the boarded-up nightclub. “Since the pandemic, there’s been a dichotomy between Valencia and Mission streets. Valencia just gets way more action.”

Marcus Miles, who grew up in San Francisco and now lives in the Inner Richmond, said he’d be interested in going back to Bruno’s once it reopens. Miles said he remembers going to the nightclub in 2012 for a party and that, even though it's a smaller venue, nearly 100 people would pack inside Bruno's on busy nights.

A man speaks to a reporter.
San Francisco native Marcus Miles recalls going to Bruno's over 10 years ago, saying the small venue would get packed with patrons. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“You could smell the alcohol on people’s breath,” Miles said.

Ben Bleiman, founder of the San Francisco Bar Owner’s Alliance and the owner of five San Francisco bars, said he was elated about the nightclub’s reopening.

“It’s one of our most iconic small venues in the city,” Bleiman said. “It’s great when historic places can get new life in them.”

But Miles, wary of onerous city bureaucracy, said he’s still skeptical that Bruno’s will open anytime soon.

“Knowing how this city works, I’ll believe it when I see it,” Miles said.

Bruno's owner Rick Howard did not respond to requests for comment.