It was known as the ‘Party Pad’, a clandestine bring-your-own-bottle establishment occupying the upper floor of a deserted produce warehouse on Davis Street, downtown San Francisco. The underground hipster hub was run without a license by a beatnik generation actor and poet known as Eric “Big Daddy” Nord, a well-known figure of the bohemian scene in California at the time. These photographs of the speakeasy-style joint were discovered by a digital archive for the city, Found, SF.
“The Party Pad is a place with sawdust floors, a few tables with red oilcloth covers, a couple of beat-up pianos and a hi-fi phonograph,” described a local newspaper in the summer of 1958, “There is no charge, but signs advise that a “donation” of $1 from men and 50 cents from women would be appreciated.” Nord even hired a policeman to keep order at the club and clear everyone out of the venue at the end of the night.
Unfortunately, this party was shut down pretty quickly after a 31 year old man died in June 1958 when he fell from the Party Pad’s roof, which guests would often use to get a breathe of fresh air. “Police found 13 empty whiskey bottles, 10 empty beer cans, as well as chairs and mattresses on the roof,” reported the local paper, “It was found that the roof was a most unsafe place.” Today, the old food warehouse has long since been demolished.
Despite it’s tragic end, this secret club must have once had an electric atmosphere behind its shabby exterior, and I can certainly see the story of a place like this inspiring some modern-day hipsters to open their next ‘speakeasy’ cocktail hotspot– complete with a decaying facade salvaged from an abandoned green grocer’s. Any bar entrepreneurs out there interested in immortalising the story of The Party Pad?
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