San Francisco’s Bay Area has large Irish and Irish-American contingents and the city has always been seriously connected to Ireland. However, as the Bay Area prices continue to soar and it becomes the most expensive city to live in worldwide, these Irish communities have been pushed out like everyone else. A prime example of that migration came yesterday with the announcement that the bar and restaurant at the city’s United Irish Cultural Center would close in just three weeks.
This news is not exactly a surprise. The UICC is quite far – as far as you can get – from the heart of the city. It has depended on the immediate surrounding Irish neighborhood for a long time, even as that community began to shrink. It’s too far out to be a destination pub and there’s not another bar in sight, making its inclusion in a pub crawl quite unlikely. The bar and restaurant close early and at different times nearly every night of the week and the space has never seemed to attract a young, hip crowd. For those that live farther away, the bar (and the center itself) is in a terrible location, especially if you have to deal with any of the bridges to get there. It should only take twenty to thirty minutes to get to the center by car from most areas in and around the city, but in reality it can take a really frustrating hour or two in the terrible traffic just to get through the doors. It is not an every day adventure (or even sometimes one) that many want to endure.
These are just the first reasons that may have led to the upcoming closure. There have been plenty of behind-the-scenes changes in the last few years too, which could have influenced this decision. What is most surprising about this situation is that they announced the closure only three weeks before they cease operation and that they’re closing the main parts of the center that might appeal to the wider (non-Irish) general public. It doesn’t bode well for the future of the UICC altogether.
In the end the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco is an amazing place, despite the far-out location. They house one of the largest Irish libraries on the west coast and are one of the only places in the area that provides Irish language lessons. It’d be a real shame to see it vanish altogether but without a serious plan that addresses the soaring costs of rent and operation, the location issues, and the mass exodus of people from San Francisco, its future is tenuous at best. It’s hard to imagine the region without an Irish center, given it’s long and loyal ties to Ireland but if all the recent closures of long-running Irish shops and bakeries are any indication, that may happen sooner rather than later. Cross your fingers folks, because San Francisco is a-changing…and not for the better.
You can find the UICC’s statement in full here