Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wolfgang's, 901 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA

Capacity 600

The 8,000 square ft. building was built in 1923 as a nightclub called Club Lido.
901 through 915 Columbus is the same building.
In the 1940's and 1950's the venue was a dance and jazz club called The Italian Village, subsequently shortened to The Village around 1971, wowed the troops during World War II with big bands and USO shows, continuing at least through to the early 70's.
Chuck Johnston, one of the kids in the original "Our Gang" comedies, bought into the foundering Italian Village on the site in 1953 after a fire had ravaged the premises. He rebuilt and reopened the Village in August 1956 with Johnnie Ray as his attraction.  He didn't have much luck. Abbott and Costello were booked for three weeks, but were bought off after a week. He tried old-timer Sophie Tucker and stripper Lili St. Cyr, but he was gone before a year was up. The club changed hands many times, trying out different recipes, none working. The club hosted weekly twist parties during the dance's craze in the sixties.(5)
The Village is listed as a gay bar in 1972.(4)

November 30, 1972 at The Village.

Dance yer Ass Off Inc. opens at 901 Columbus in 1975.

On Nov. 26, 1978, a cigarette smoldering in a mezzanine lounge ignited a two-alarm fire that gutted the Dance Your Ass Off Inc. disco at 901 Columbus Ave. The fire damage is estimated at $70,000.(2) This club had no cover charge and made a million dollars it's first year of operation.

In the early 1980's the building was the brief base for the relocated Boarding House.

Wolfgang's was opened at 901 Columbus Avenue by Bill Graham in 1983.
David Crosby sat in for three songs with Stephen Stills, photo by Richard D. Price.

It quickly became one of the top rock venues in the city. This 600 seat location was a hit, it's easier to list who did not play here then did. On July 31, 1987, a fire broke out in the hotel above the club, the combination of smoke and water damage closed the doors on a Bay Area institution forever.(2)
March 20, 1986

The Ramones performed here on September 15, 1986.

The place reopened as the "7th Note" jazz and dance club in 1990.

In November 2003, the building became "Cobb's Comedy Club", which was formerly located in Fisherman's Wharf.  Cobb's Comedy Club shared the corner with The Columbus Cafe

Now called The Columbus Cafe.
901 Columbus Cafe, different paint job.
Another paint job.

Jerry performed here on
1972 Merl Saunders [6] (The Village)
10/10/73 Merl Saunders (The Village)[7][8]
WICCA , Paul Pena opened.

 8/28/84 John Kahn (acoustic) Rodney Albin Memorial Benefit

2.)^Perkins, Laura, 2003-11-21,
4.)^Gay Bars of SF,
5.)^Selvin, Joel, San Francisco, the Musical History Tour, pg. 40.
6.)^Arnold, Corry, comments, 2013-01-23,


  1. So many improbable things seem to happen. I swear to you that, randomly, just today, I slogged through a tape of the Rodney Albin Memorial on 8/28/84. Garcia sounds absolutely horrible. I was thinking about 901 Columbus, and then I saw your post. Very cool. Thanks!

  2. I worked at that corner cafe in the nineties. I was called Cafe Freddie's at the time. I recall they were perpetually "just about to open" something in the old Wolfgang's space but it never happened. Great fun to work on that corner tho.

  3. I worked at the Italian Village in the early 1950s developing and printing photos made by the camera girl.
    For a while I also worked at the nearby Bimbo's club.

    1. I know this is a long shot but could not resist, is there any chance that those photos are available somewhere?

  4. I was looking at this for a different reason, but I am fairly certain the Garcia/Saunders played 901 Columbus in '71 or '72, when it was called The Village. The poster says "The Fillmore West Of The Gay Set"

  5. Corry,
    Too busy to update this blog regularly.
    Here's the dates you asked about:
    1972 Merl Saunders [1] (The Village)
    10/10/73 Merl Saunders (The Village)[2][3]
    WICCA , Paul Pena opened.

    1.)^Arnold, Corry, comments, 2013-01-23,

  6. Used to hit this place on a regular basis back in the early '80's, when it was Wolfgang's; spent many a Saturday evening "dancing the night away". Even met a couple of my girlfriends there, before they were ex-girlfriends. Somewhere, I still have a collection of the buttons they used to hand out when you entered the club. Ah, good times!

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  9. Thank you for your article! I found a vintage menu from the Italian Village and your article has helped me narrow down the time frame from the 1040s to the 1950s.