Amnesia is the Latest San Francisco Music Venue to Close

(Photo courtesy Amnesia)

Long-running Mission District club Amnesia is closing its doors. Mission Local confirmed that the cozy live music venue, known for its extensive craft beer selection and eclectic programming, is set to cease operations indefinitely on Feb. 29.

Without going into specifics, a statement from Amnesia obtained by KQED suggests that the business will reopen in a different incarnation.

"It’s time now to write the next chapter of 853 Valencia," the statement reads. "Our plan is to retain the entertainment license for the space while we work through where music fits into the new model. With full clarity we know that we will not be able to maintain the same model that exists today. We’ve explored many options over the course of the past two years, but the hard truth is that this business is not fiscally sustainable."

It continues, "What we can say with confidence is that 853 Valencia has been a neighborhood bar-gathering space for over 100 years; this will not go away. Before 853 Valencia was Amnesia it was the Chameleon, before it was the Chameleon it was the Chatterbox, and on and on."

San Francisco's real estate boom—or crisis, depending on whom you ask—has not made things easy for independent music venues. Amnesia's closure follows the recent shuttering of SoMa dance club Mezzanine, which held its final show on New Year's Eve after 17 years in business. The owners of Mezzanine's Jessie Street building plan to convert it into office spaces and increase the rent by 600 percent—in 2018, one of the building's owners told KQED, by way of explanation, "It's just economics." Also in 2018, underground rock club the Hemlock Tavern shut its doors to make room for new development.

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Like the aforementioned venues, Amnesia is known for its locally focused booking, without backing from live music giants like Goldenvoice or Live Nation. In the Bay Area, the two corporations control booking at many large and mid-sized venues, including the Fillmore, Chase Center, Slim's, Great American Music Hall, Regency Ballroom and others, and prioritize touring acts over local artists.

Meanwhile, smaller clubs like Amnesia give Bay Area residents an alternative for live music—one that comes with a low ticket price and a chance to check out underground or local talent.

Craig Wathen, owner of specialty shop City Beer Store, took over Amnesia from previous owner Shawn Magee in 2015. With Adrian Spinelli, an arts journalist and host of the Noise Pop podcast, handling Amnesia's booking over the last year, the venue has hosted some of the Bay Area's most exciting rising artists, including Salami Rose Joe Louis—who is now signed to Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label—and Mahawam, a rapper celebrated for their daring lyrical subject matter.

Weekly jazz, bluegrass and comedy nights have long been a staple on Amnesia's monthly calendar, and jazz bands like Gaucho have held residencies there for nearly two decades.

"It’s always accessible, it’s a great place where you can walk up any day of the week and pop in and catch a show whether you know who’s playing or not," Spinelli says. "It kind of has that charm of equal parts destination and discovery."

This post has been updated to include quotes from Amnesia's statement.