When Matthew Meyer and Daniel Paez first announced their plans for Low Bar early last year, the Chicano-owned bar was hailed as part of a new wave of craft cocktail bars in Oakland that centered the experiences of people of color. Then, of course, the pandemic hit, and everything ground to a halt. Low Bar was one of countless local watering holes that either shut down entirely or had their openings placed in protracted limbo.
Happy news, then, for those who have been waiting: About a month ago, Low Bar quietly opened at 2300 Webster Street (the former Hawker Fare space) with both food and cocktail menus that proudly reflect the owners’ Mexican American backgrounds: quesabirria tacos, plenty of creative agave cocktails, and an ingenious Mexican twist on a Scotch egg. For now, the bar is open Thursday through Sunday for both indoor and outdoor service.
“I feel like COVID obviously put a huge damper and was a momentum buster for everyone,” says Meyer. “But if you’re asking if bars owned by people of color are going to slow down: Absolutely not. As a Chicano, I’ve never been more proud.”
If there was a time when Oakland’s booming bar scene was regarded as the purview of white hipsters, by early last year that characterization had increasingly started to feel like it no longer applied. As Eater SF first noted, within a span of a few months, several prominent, upscale-ish, POC-owned spots opened with diverse staffing and serious cocktail programs that reflected their owners’ cultural backgrounds—and all within a few city blocks. Before COVID hit, Viridian was trumpeting its uniquely Asian American identity as a cocktail bar, slinging Portuguese egg tarts and sublime drinks inspired by Chinese-American dishes like a tomato beef stir-fry. And Sobre Mesa had a whole Afro-Latino lounge vibe going, with a deep rum lineup and a small plates menu that drew inspiration from across the African diaspora.