Just a quick walk from the heavily tourist-trafficked Embarcadero, in the nebulous zone where the Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach districts bump uglies, Sweetie’s Art Bar is that rarest of finds -- a neighborhood bar popular with locals in a neighborhood overwhelmingly frequented by out-of-town visitors. Located in the middle of a block of Francisco Street with few other businesses, Sweetie’s is inconspicuous despite the awning emblazoned with its name out front. Tourists find their way there to be sure, but they are more likely to stumble across it on the internet than on foot, the bulk of the clientele neighborhood types: longtime residents, restaurant and dock workers, and students from the nearby art school.
Often wrongly referred to as a dive bar by millennial reviewers, it hardly qualifies as one, its interior clean, welcoming, and almost homey. The regulars might be a little standoffish towards the tourist trade and the place itself is somewhat no frills, offering reasonably cheap drinks and free pool, but it’s a family-type of establishment, open only from 4 to 10:30 PM (3 to 11 PM) Thursdays through Sundays, not catering to AM drinkers or the late night party crowd. With its laid-back atmosphere, outdoor seating, and eclectic decor, Sweetie’s does have a sort of port-of-call feel to it, but a respectable one, casual but classy.
That includes an intrinsic appreciation of art thanks to the owner, native San Franciscan artist Flicka McGuerrin, who has contributed many of her own paintings—often with nautical elements—to the bar in addition to sponsoring monthly art shows curated by Sweetie’s art and media coordinator Laura Atkins. In years past they’ve included exhibitions dedicated to underground cartoonists like the legendary Spain Rodriguez, a longtime San Francisco resident who was in attendance. Artists associated with McGuerrin’s alma matter, the San Francisco Art Institute, have also hung their work there, or just hung around. Bartender Adam Beck has shown his art there, when he wasn’t demonstrating the art of the pour.
As with any good neighborhood bar, there’s also a sense of community at Sweetie’s, even extending to the bar's four-legged regulars -- one of whom has even been immortalized in a 2017 calendar sold at Sweetie’s to benefit Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, a charitable organization dedicated to older dogs. The bar menu comes courtesy of Seamus Gibney, chef at Pier 23, also owned by McGuerrin, with the Spiced Nuts made by the owner herself. Order a Sweetie’s Kiss, one of the specialty cocktails, and it’ll be made with love (at least that’s listed as one of the ingredients).
Sweetie’s Art Bar takes its name from Flicka’s father Howard McGuerrin, nicknamed Sweetie, whose picture adorns the bar, a reminder that providing folks with good times is a family tradition.
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