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    El Rio Embodies San Francisco’s Diversity and Creative Energy

    Amy Meyers

    By Amy Meyers

    El Rio has been a melting pot of the San Francisco cultural scene for many decades. Famous for $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can, homemade margaritas and a “dress your own” Bloody Mary bar, the drink selections appeal to a broad cross-section of San Francisco tastes.

    Longtime bar owner Dawn Huston caters to the diverse communities of San Francisco both in age and culture—from the fiery progressive political activists to the lesbian “Olivia Cruise” crowd. The bar provides 3 performance spaces that on any given night run the gamut from thumping rap or loud screaming guitars in the back room to high-energy salsa on the patio or intimate “coffee-house” folk inside the main bar. 

    I have been a part of the San Francisco music scene since I moved here in 1991; in the 90s, late night venues were a perfect match for my music. But now, my coffee shop “pop-rock” originals and Fleetwood Mac covers don’t translate well to the late night edgy music scene of the hipsters.

    But on the back patio at El Rio on a lazy San Francisco Saturday afternoon, the vibe is hip and festive with just enough edge to be cool enough for the millennials while still catering to the 40+ crowd. This is my stage. These are my people. I can feel the chill in the air, but the strategically placed heat lamps keep me and my fingers warm while I strum my guitar or bang the keys on my piano.

    Friends mingle, dance, and enjoy the music in what feels like their very own house party. For decades, the legacy of El Rio is not the building that houses the business, but what has become a home away from home for the numerous political, cultural, and artistic communities of San Francisco.

    Singer/songwriter Amy Meyers is a San Francisco-based performer who appears in musicals, theatrical productions, TV programs and films. She is also a teacher who has mentored many local musicians. For more info: