After serving as a staple of the San Francisco Bay Area nightlife scene for 30 years, popular music club Slim’s announced on Friday (March 20) that it would be ceasing operations permanently.
As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the beloved venue founded and co-owned by musician Boz Scaggs informed employees on Wednesday that the club would not reopen at a later date after closing in accordance with a “shelter in place” order issued by San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday.
Though concerns over lost revenue in the wake of mandated, coronavirus-related cancellations and closures have left many venues across the globe reeling, the decision to shutter the nightclub was apparently reached late last year prior to the pandemic.
Following the departure of general manager Dawn Holliday in 2017, the venue’s ownership, Big Billy Inc., also lost out on the notable revenue they’d annually earned from the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park each fall. Scaggs would ultimately partner with the Los Angeles promoter Goldenvoice to book both Slim’s and Great American Music Hall — its sister club in the city’s Tenderloin district — in 2018.
One of the many things that made Slim’s unique in a city spoiled with venues: capacity. As a 500-person club, the space at 333 11th Street was able to cater to both up-and-coming local acts (many of whom would later go to become major names) as well as more established artists looking to play an intimate affair.
With its chameleonic reputation for booking everything from punk to country (“I had complete freedom,” Holliday told the San Francisco Chronicle), Slim’s also garnered a reputation as a welcoming home for rising Bay Area artists across all genres. Since opening its doors in 1988, acts ranging from Marianne Faithfull to Pearl Jam to Snoop Dogg have all graced the Slim’s stage, ensuring a wide swath of local residents have had reason to visit the club over the years.
In addition to welcoming local musicians of all stripes, Slim’s has also served as the inaugural San Francisco stop for many of today’s most popular acts. Among the artists to make their debut in the city at Slim’s: Alison Krauss, Radiohead, Beck and Sheryl Crow. The venue has also embraced its fair share of odd celebrity side-projects, include a trio of 1995 performances by the Keanu Reeves’ led Dogstar as well as a private 1991 concert from David Bowie’s hard rock outfit, Tin Machine.
Beyond the countless concerts the club hosted (pictured is a recent show headlined by Juliana Hatfield), Slim’s will also forever be associated with Hardly Bluegrass Festival, a free multi-day event which they first produced in 2001 with funding from billionaire Warren Hellman. Scaggs has also confirmed that Great American Music Hall — a gorgeously decorated 600-person capacity venue — will re-open alongside the rest of San Francisco when a statewide “shelter in place” order lifts on April 7. (Scaggs also plans to move Slim’s staff to the Great American once able to do so.)
Though the storied club’s final years were largely defined by Goldenvoice’s efforts to tighten its grip on the region’s venues, its legacy as a San Francisco institution is cemented in memories of the numerous, distinctly Bay Area nights they helped to bring to life. Be it the time Prince, George Clinton, and Chaka Khan all got together for a late-night jam or a weekday hip-hop concert headlined by Del the Funky Homosapien, the pulse of San Francisco always throbbed loud and pure at Slim’s.