Feb 7, 2023 4 min read

The Ave Bar Embraces Culture, Sports and Curated Drinks

Bar patrons
The Ave Bar has been serving the neighborhood since 1949. | Ingleside Light file photo

The bar has been an Ingleside mainstay for its commitment to fine craft beer and spirits and the community. Here’s the Legacy Business’s story.

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Open the door to The Ave Bar and hear laughter, sports games and clinking of glasses.

This neighborhood bar is the embodiment of the San Francisco spirit. Founded by former San Francisco 49ers football player John Schielh and business partner Bob Wells as The Avenue Club in 1949, the bar has been a tried-and-true neighborhood watering hole ever since.

“There’s always something special going on,” said Denice Hernandez, a long-time customer. “The drinks. The People. You can hear the music. This place makes you feel at home.”

While it has changed hands over the years, San Francisco native and fireman Bomani Caungula took over in 2006 and turned the bar into a destination through the addition of craft beer and top shelf spirits to the neighborhood.

“Pound for pound, I got the best beer selection and the best hard liquor selection in the city,” Caungula said.

But drinks alone aren’t what make it special.

From hosting beer tastings and fundraisers to participating in multiple toy drives and more, Caungula and his wife Lucia Fuentes Zarate make it their mission to be as community-oriented as possible.

Bartender with customers
Bartender Gabby Gonzalez with customers Denice Hernandez (left) and Melinda Noack. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

Storied Past

At the same location for decades the bar continuously serve patrons. They have gone through seven re-brandings and almost as many ownership changes.

After footballer Schielh sold his portions of the bar to Wells in 1950, Wells sold it to Jimmie and Hallie Emmett in 1957. They rebranded to Jimmie & Hallie Emmett's Avenue Club before shortening the name to Jim's Avenue Club. In 1967, they changed the name again to Jim's Avenue Club Tavern before changing it again in 1968 to Avenue Club Tavern.

Kim Young Cha took over in 1985 and rebranded the business to Avenue Club. Cha sold it in 2000 to Bernard and Suki Williams.

Caungula bought the business with two partners, Franco Calzolai and Rodney Glover. They changed the name to The Ave Bar. By 2007, Caungula and Zarate were the sole owners.

The pair were freed to create a neighborhood bar dedicated to attentive service, an enjoyable atmosphere and, of course, high quality drinks.

In 2017, The Ave Bar joined the San Francisco Legacy Business Registry.

Bar owners
The Ave Bar owners Bomani Caungula and Lucia Fuentes Zarate. | Ingleside Light file photo

Curated Drinks

The Ave Bar offers a specialized draught beer list and quality spirits that they ensure are at an affordable price for their patrons. But they carry a curated selection of bottled beer and seltzer just the same.

The Ave Bar’s bartenders are well educated on industry-related materials so they can provide the best experience to their customers. Cicerone-certified beer experts are brought in to teach the staff how to speak about the draught beer selection.

The Ave Bar tasks its bartenders with reading industry-related materials in order to better describe the draught selection to customers and work to get their staff Cicerone-certified so they can assist with their growth and development within the industry.

Beer isn’t the only alcohol they give this treatment to. They follow a similar practice with their whiskeys.

Gabby Gonzalez, the head bartender, said that Caungula veers away from big brands.

“He tries to make sure that people realize that it’s some good stuff,” Gonzalez said. “Instead of Maker’s Mark, he’ll go for something small-batch, something local.”

Caungula maintains a local ethos.

“The fact that I’m from San Francisco and this is a small local business, I don’t want to see it fail,” Caungula said. “All the money doesn't have to come from big corporations. It’s got to come from the locals. It’s a small neighborhood bar. That’s what San Francisco is all about.”

The Ave Bar

Address: 1607 Ocean Ave.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 3:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Phone: (415) 587-6645
Visit Website

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