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Meet San Francisco’s bar crawl king who bet big on city’s nightlife—and won

A man sits in an armchair.
Matt Seliga quit his biotech job 10 years ago to focus on his bar crawl business, Crawl SF. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Matt Seliga scanned the room at Mayes Oyster House in Lower Nob Hill on Saturday night as people dressed as Jedi Knights milled around with Baby Yoda plushies perched on their shoulders.

The brown-robed 20- and 30-somethings, some clutching toy lightsabers, drank $3 beers and $5 “Jawa Juice,” a vodka cocktail made with 7-Up, pineapple juice and blue curaçao. The wise Jedis and Sith lords paced themselves—it was, after all, just one of many stops on the night's itinerary.

Clad in a blue Adidas tracksuit, Seliga, who organized the “May the Fourth” Star Wars Day event through his company CrawlSF, was living exactly the life he pictured when he quit his boring job at a biotech company 10 years ago. And he didn't even have to take a pay cut to do it.

“I don’t know what really motivated me” to quit his career, the 47-year-old Marina resident said. “I was just sitting in a cubicle answering phones, doing customer support for scientists in a lab, and it wasn’t that exciting to me. So I thought, you know, do something on the side that’s a little more social.”

The inspiration for his new business came to him after going on a crawl organized by an East Coast events company in Washington, D.C., in 2004.

“It didn’t exist out here,” he said. “I was new [to San Francisco], so I figured, you know, I’ll give it a shot, do these pub crawls. … I thought it’d be a good way to meet people.”

In April of that year, Seliga founded CrawlSF, which was a one-man band in its early days. To advertise his events, he used a bootleg copy of Adobe Illustrator to design flyers, which he would hand out every night on Polk Street

“I was probably bugging people, but back then, there wasn’t really social media—at least not like we have today,” he said. “It was really word of mouth.”

In his first year, he organized just two events: the Polk Street Bar Crawl and the Union Street Experience. Now, Seliga hosts at least 10 pub crawls with dozens of bars and restaurants across the city each year. Last year, he made $300,000 in profit.

People stand in a bar.
Matt Calvo, left, Anthony Muñoz, center, and Erick Steiner pose at a Star Wars-themed pub crawl at Mayes Oyster House in San Francisco this past Saturday. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Bar-crawl promoting wasn't always this lucrative. For the first eight to 10 years, CrawlSF didn’t make any money. It wasn’t until 2014 that Seliga said he was able to quit his desk job for good and focus on the company full-time. 

CrawlSF’s success has only grown since then. In 2010, he said, he considered himself lucky to sell 500 tickets for a bar crawl. Nowadays, if he doesn’t sell at least 1,000 for his smaller crawls, that’s a slow night. 

Seliga sold 24,000 tickets last year through Eventbrite, generating $565,000 in total revenue. The Standard reviewed ticket sale revenue reports from Seliga’s Eventbrite account from 2015 to 2023 to corroborate his claim. For the Halloween bar crawl last year, Seliga sold just under 14,000 tickets through Eventbrite.

Explaining his job to others—and proving he actually makes money—can be a little awkward. “I kind of hate the question,” Seliga said. “When there’s, like, a lawyer, and then I have to be like, ‘I do pub crawls,’ and ‘No, it’s, like, a profitable business.’”

People drink inside a bar.
Alex Cortes, left, wearing a clone trooper costume, talks to Hanna Serrano at a Star Wars-themed pub crawl at Mayes Oyster House. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

His ability to net profits is more impressive considering the amount of competition in the bar crawling space. Other local operations include Barcrawlerz,, Crawl With US, and Pub Crawl San Francisco, none of which responded to requests for comment. Seliga claims an advantage over the others because of CrawlSF's ability to score cheaper drink specials.

“Their business model is they’re just going big, and they don’t care about the experience,” Seliga said. “I’ve done every poster. I’ve created every theme. I’ve bought all the decorations. I really want people to have a good time.”

Seliga, who runs the business with his wife, Caitlin, and sister, Heather, believes that hosting bar crawls isn’t just about giving people an excuse to go out and get wasted. It’s also about cheering on San Francisco, which he says has gotten a bad rap because of its issues with drugs and crime.

“One of the things I want to do with CrawlSF is shine a good light on San Francisco,” Seliga said.

How the bar crawls work

A CrawlSF ticket gets you cheap drinks at anywhere from nine to 40 bars, depending on the event. A ticket is $5 when bought well in advance but can run as high as $25 when purchased closer to the day of the crawl—a last-minute ticket for one day of Seliga’s annual three-day Halloween event costs $35.

Ticket holders check in at a designated bar along the crawl and get a wristband to access the exclusive drink specials offered by participating bars: $3 beers, $4 shots and $5 cocktails. On-trend themes are a huge draw: Last month, CrawlSF threw a Taylor Swift-inspired event with drink specials named after Swiftie-favored songs and the star's music on blast all night.

Drinks sit on a bar.
Seliga says his bar crawls are better than the competition because of his cheap drink specials and themed events. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Seliga admits that he loses money on most of his pub crawls due to the overhead costs of security, decorations and marketing. But he said his two biggest events—St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween—more than make up for it.

“[Halloween] was kick-ass,” said CrawlSF customer Anthony Muñoz. “I puked my guts out.”

For his recent Star Wars-themed pub crawl, Seliga said he sold just 300 tickets, netting $3,000 in revenue. But the decorations alone cost $2,500. After the cost of staff and marketing, Seliga estimated he lost $1,000 on the event. “But this is marketing for the whole year.”

A man poses for a photo portrait.
Seliga says he hopes to shine a good light on San Francisco through his bar crawls. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Looking ahead, Seliga said he wants CrawlSF to go upmarket and is toying with ideas like adding a wine bar crawl and wine tastings to the company’s offerings.

It's all part of his quest to show that San Francisco is still a city worth visiting. “Some of my friends ask me, like, ‘Is there really shit everywhere in San Francisco?’” Seliga said. “We have our problems, but it’s still a great city.”

May the Fourth bar crawler Delez, at eight drinks, said he agrees.

“People say San Francisco sucks,” Delez said. “But they don’t see what San Francisco culture is because they’re stuck in their bubble.”

Garrett Leahy can be reached at