holes, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I asked Scot to elaborate on what that could be. “Organized chaos. It looks crazy, but everything is intentional. We also want everyone to feel comfortable. I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, black, white, hipster, biker, whatever – you are welcome at our bars. Leave your social group at the door and come be a human being.” He continues: “We wanted a place that was sort of rowdy but settled. For the people that grew up and now want more than a beer and a shot.” So how did each bar get its design? “We just get an idea. Hamilton’s is mine, Small Bar is Dennis, and Eleven is Louis.” Scot cites O’Brien’s, Liar’s Club, Livewire, Toronado SF, and the Lucky Labrador (in Portland) as inspirations.
I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, black, white, hipster, biker, whatever – you are welcome at our bars. Leave your social group at the door and come be a human being.” - Scot Blair
The bars attract a dedicated following. Eleven (opened in 2010) pro- vides a concise but technically sophisticated life music venue, a loaded rock and roll jukebox, vinyl booths, food via Fuego 1 (a food truck that sits directly outside) and free peanuts. Being the newest of the trio, Eleven is still endearing itself to the gentrifying neighborhood of City Heights and seldom fills up on a normal weeknight. The name comes from a scene in the movie Spinal Tap, the quintessential mockumen- tary on the rock and roll lifestyle.
Small Bar (opened in 2009) has a subtle gothic theme using the colors red and black throughout the décor, an impressive whiskey and cock- tail selection, and the best food of the lot. Small Bar fills up quick on Friday & Saturday nights, but relaxes through the rest of the week as a University Heights neighborhood bar. Small Bar’s name came about when Scot & Karen were dining across the street, and Scot noticed the For Lease sign. He recalls, “I just kept repeating ‘Small Bar! Small Bar! Small Bar!’”
Hamilton’s is named in honor of Herman Hamilton, a Montford Point Marine. Herman still lives next door to Hamilton’s, and his pic- ture hangs above the exit of the bar.
The ceiling of Hamilton’s Tavern (opened in 2006) is lined with hundreds of hanging tap handles and strings of blue Christmas lights (see our cover photo), the best beer rotation of the three, events “2nd Saturday” (complete with complimentary food along with a featured brewery) and “Firkin Friday” (weekly guest cask beer special), and pool tables. Hamilton’s, the eldest of the trio, is consistently packed with South Park’s soulful crowd. Hamilton’s is named in honor of Her- man Hamilton, a Montford Point Marine. Herman still lives next door to Hamilton’s, and his picture hangs above the exit of the bar.
As with the new breed of successful establishments, the Blairs have mastered online media. The websites of each bar are notable. Each bar has a website of professional design with extreme functionality. The tap lists of each bar are constantly updated online, as are upcoming events. For those who prefer to receive email blasts, a weekly newslet- ter informs customers of upcoming events, tap lists, and other rel- evant information. The Twitter and Facebook of each bar delivers the mentioned information as well. At Scot’s insistence, Karen is respon- sible for inputting the info for everything. “I was literally updating the website in my wedding dress.”
Scot and his bars are conscious of their roles in their communities. “In 2006, I took a risk by opening Hamilton’s in South Park. People were skeptical, but if you’re the first one to find gold, others will fol- low. I showed everyone that there was gold in them hills.” The results speak for themselves, as Hamilton’s now sits confidently as the most southern craft beer establishment on the 30th Street brew circuit. Scot believes that history will repeat itself with Eleven, and that the neighborhood of City Heights will gentrify in a similar manner as North Park, South Park, and Golden Hill. All signs point to Scot being correct in his prediction, and as of today his record is flawless. Natu- rally, I inquire if another bar is in the pipeline. His eyes brighten as he declines comment, and I call his tell. “I will say that we are definitely not done yet.”
Hamilton’s Tavern. Event spotlight: 2nd Saturday w/ Karl Strauss Feb. 12 featuring dueling casks of 22nd Anniversary & Backlit India Black Ale. Tons more on tap with Mardi Gras-style grub. Find all of Hamil- ton’s events @ westcoastersd.com/event-calendar/
Louis Mello, former owner of the Liar’s Club, @ Eleven
Small Bar. Event spotlight: Night of the Bastards featuring 6 varieties & build-your-own flight: (3) 6oz tasters for $6. Find all of Small Bar’s events @ westcoastersd.com/event-calendar/
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