Breakups are hard. We’ve all been there, either on the receiving end or the delivering one, and it’s never fun for either party. Plus, you run the risk of tears or hurtful words, or getting a chair thrown at you.
Fortunately, San Francisco boasts almost as many good breakup bars as singles bars. This guide covers seven breakup pubs that run the gamut from punk bar to speakeasy and facilitate everything from dickish cop-outs to marginally romantic (if misguided) attempts to make things work.
If You Need to Make a Speedy Getaway:
MarketBar—1 Ferry Building Marketplace
First things first: the direst breakups sometimes require the most daring escapes, so I’m putting this one at the top.
While you’ve likely walked past it a few times—almost certainly when entertaining an out-of-town friend—Embarcadero mainstay MarketBar isn’t exactly a hotspot for locals. “Bar” is probably the third word I’d choose to describe it, after “cafe” and “restaurant” (their own copy refers to the place as an “American brasserie”), but they do have some pretty good happy-hour specials that run later than most in the area.
Its relevance to this discussion, however, comes almost exclusively as a result of its location. MarketBar sits squarely on the southeast corner of the Ferry Building and boasts a substantial outdoor seating area with easy access to the piers.
If you expect things to go abruptly downhill after you break the bad news, I recommend buying a ferry ticket inside ahead of time. Make sure to coordinate your bombshell with the departure schedule, so if you need to pull the rip cord, you can just hop the little fence, sprint around the corner, get on the first boat to Alameda, and ride out the evening sucking down absinthe at St. George.
It’s a winning strategy, but one that should be reserved only for the most apocalyptically ill-tempered. Also, it helps if they’re slow.
If You Sort of Don’t Want Them to Actually Hear You:
Bottom of the Hill—1233 17th Street
This is another bar that isn’t really a bar, but it serves its purpose well enough for the cowardly breakup artist. is better known as one of San Francisco’s most legendary concert venues, hosting up-and-coming punk, grunge and indie-rock bands . As such, it’s extraordinarily good at being very, very loud.
I’d be hesitant to tarnish my fond memories of Bottom of the Hill with a breakup, but for those of you who aren’t quite so attached, it offers an opportunity to rip the emotional Band-Aid off without having to face the consequences.
Just picture it: you’re sipping a Tecate, wincing as some obscure noise-metal band from Oakland enters the thirteenth minute of their opening song. You turn to your soon-to-be ex, smile and say, “I think we should see other people.” They nod jovially, clearly in agreement and unfazed, and not at all deafened by the cacophony coming from the stage.
Then, all that’s left to do is ignore their calls and texts for the next month, and you’re good to go! Isn’t it nice to handle this sort of thing like an adult for once?
If You Need to Redirect Their Aggression onto Someone Else:
Vertigo—1160 Polk Street
There are a few bars in San Francisco that allow you to deflect any potential post-breakup rage and make it somebody else’s problem almost immediately. Chief among them is everyone’s favorite TenderNob haunt, Vertigo.
When I first moved to the city, a friend made a point of dragging me out to Vertigo nearly every weekend. Perhaps it was the two-dollar PBR, the DJs with a penchant for mid-2000s hip-hop or the sloppy clientele that filed in reliably around midnight (we assumed they migrated from Union Street and then rolled the rest of the way down Nob Hill)—but something about the place inspired him one night to sit back and narrate the goings-on like David Attenborough.
Vertigo has a tendency to get a bit … aggressive as the night goes on. It’s not everyone, and it’s not every night, but chances are if you hang around long enough, somebody’s going to get pissy about how crowded it is and give you a shove.
If you’re planning to break up with someone who needs a physical outlet for their frustration, I suggest popping into Vertigo at around 1:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Should your former partner start fuming, simply lure them to the back of the dance floor. Nature should take care of the rest, and you can make your escape.
If One or Both of You Need a Shoulder to Cry On:
Elixir—3200 16th Street
There are a few bars in San Francisco that offer more in the way of emotional support than escape routes. If both parties possess at least a modicum of maturity, might just be the thing to pull you out of the dumps.
I say this because Elixir is home to some of the friendliest bartenders I’ve ever come across in the city. While it certainly has the clout to count itself among the best craft cocktail joints in the Bay, the fact that the saloon has been a Mission District staple since before Prohibition gives it an air of neighborhood-bar approachability.
Coming here on a quiet weeknight is almost always the way to go. After the unpleasant business is out in the open, there’s nothing quite as soothing as moseying up to the bar, downing shots of Fernet and listening to stories about the . (Did you hear about all the 90-year-old jugs of whiskey they found under the floorboards when they renovated the place?) Hell, if your ex feels like sticking around, they can have their own little therapy session at the other end of the bar.
Oh, and try to keep the waterworks to a minimum—but if you can’t, don’t tell them I sent you.
If You Want to Pretend You’re Going to Remain Friends:
Urban Putt—1096 South Van Ness Avenue
, an indoor mini-golf course on 22nd and South Van Ness, came onto the bourgie San Francisco dating scene just about two years ago (to significant fanfare, I might add). Ever since then, this Mission District funhouse has played host to its fair share of burgeoning romances—but who’s to say it shouldn’t get to witness a few breakups as well?
After all, not every relationship has to go down in flames, and you may well have convinced yourself that you and your former significant other are going to be best buds right off the bat. Though your friends may try to tell you that it’s a horrifically misguided plan, I say you should go for it and jump right into a post-breakup game without any mourning period at all. It won’t look passive-aggressive, I swear.
Urban Putt, while a bit gimmicky, does offer a pretty unique opportunity: you can get blackout drunk either before or immediately after a round of San Francisco–themed mini-golf. Since there’s no drinking allowed on the course itself, I urge you to stick with the former—it makes it easier in case your ex decides to skip out early and leaves you hanging on the 9th hole.
And let’s be honest, you’ll probably need a few drinks in you even if they stick around.
If You Want to Act Out a Heart-Rending Scene from an Old Movie:
Local Edition—691 Market Street
Local Edition, situated downtown on 3rd and Market, is a weirdly syncretic bar that brings together equal numbers of finance suits and tatted, mustachioed cocktail aficionados. The drinks are excellent, albeit pricey, but the most striking thing about the place is its commitment to a Roaring Twenties aesthetic.
Between the cheerful bouncers, literally underground bar, dim candlelight and occasional bouts of live jazz, it’s easy to think you’ve stepped into a swanky time machine. As a result, it’s the perfect place to stage that melodramatic breakup you’ve been secretly wishing for ever since your once-better half made you watch Casablanca.
In preparation for this advanced decoupling technique, put on your best , tell your date you should both get “all dolled and dappered up,” and let them know that this is going to be a period piece of an evening.
Then, after a few rounds of Champagne Cocktails and Highballs, breaking things off becomes a simple matter of staring wistfully off into the distance and muttering something under your breath about Paris. If they don’t get the hint, well, they were probably too obtuse to be worth your time anyway.
If You Want to Drink So Much Rum You Rekindle the Old Flame:
Smuggler’s Cove—650 Gough Street
Finally, a breakup venue for the optimists. Smuggler’s Cove is a world-renowned tiki bar (you’ll just have to trust me that such a thing exists) that may well be home to the best cocktails in San Francisco.
Their menu is an artful blend of craft-cocktail epicureanism and faux-Polynesian cheesiness. Although you do have to be careful about just how many Mai Tais you knock back, lest you find yourself facedown in Civic Center Plaza wondering how you got there.
Or you can ignore that advice and harness the power of alcohol to heal your relationship! If you’re considering a breakup but really don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding a replacement partner, Smuggler’s Cove is just the place for you.
I recommend getting to the heavy stuff after exactly one Jamaican Planter’s Punch each—they have just enough kick to loosen you up, but not quite enough to push you over the edge into “convulsive sobbing” territory. Then, assuming they stick around to talk things out, go ahead and order another round. And another, and another and so on.
Next thing you know, it’ll be morning, and you’ll find yourself either home alone in bed with a stranger (whether that’s a positive or a negative is strictly context dependent) or lying next to your would-be ex with a smile on your face and a splitting headache.
The latter outcome implies that you’ve worked out your differences and are now prepared to carry on your relationship like well-adjusted, supportive adults—without any memory of dealing with all that icky emotional crap. Congratulations!