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The San Francisco Standard

Know Your Neighbors

Ben Bleiman 

San Francisco's tireless defender of late-night fun
Written by Chris Roberts
Published Jun. 27, 2022 • 4:21pm

Bar owners, according to Ben Bleiman, “are one of the least organized groups in the universe.” He should know. Last summer, the owner of Teeth, managed to convince watering holes all over the city to coalesce around a unified Covid policy—and he did it before a government mandate.

In advance of San Francisco’s June 2021 reopening, Bleiman—co-founder of Tonic Nightlife Group, founder of the SF Bar Owner Alliance and an industry representative on the the city’s Entertainment Commission—successfully persuaded local bar owners to deny entry to patrons who could not produce proof of a Covid-19 vaccination or a recent negative test.

It wasn’t easy, Bleiman said. Simply convincing his peers in the industry that City Hall would care about the collective action was a heavy lift.

“They didn’t believe anything would change,” he said.

But the fight was worth the reward. Thanks in large part to the official recommendation the Bar Owner Alliance—and the group’s continued advocacy for nightlife in San Francisco—local bars made their triumphant return to in-person service last summer. What’s more, they’ve kept their doors open despite a number of Covid spikes that had some questioning the wisdom of allowing large groups of people to consume alcohol together indoors.

Bleiman, of course, was not one of the skeptics. For him “fun is as important to our city as affordable housing. What good is an affordable fuckin house if there’s no fun in the city? You can go get an affordable house in Tulsa right now. We should be cherishing fun and putting it on a pedestal.”

Photos: Juliana Yamada/The Standard

Ben Bleiman - portrait

Special powers

Organizing the unorganizable.

Arch enemies

The forces of anti-fun.

Weaknesses

Toxic local politics.

Lineage

Those who have mastered the art of burning the candle at both ends without burning out.

Current mission

Legalize fun, and defend a good time at all costs.

“Fun is as important to our city as affordable housing. We should be cherishing fun and putting it on a pedestal.”
Ben Bleiman - portrait