The hardscrabble urban landscape of an outer Mission Street commercial corridor filled with mom and pop grocery stores, many vacant storefronts and a few check-cashing establishments seems like an improbable setting for an upscale wine bar.
But since July 1, Sip wine bar has been offering an extensive and sophisticated menu of wines, craft beers, champagnes, sake, Korean soju rice wines and Japanese and Scotch whiskeys, to an enthusiastic clientele.
Although many skeptics had doubts that the bar could survive in a working class area like the Excelsior, general manager Shirley Do and bar manager Ana Lee refused to be discouraged. Do said she opened Sip so that neighborhood residents don’t have to travel far to sample fine wines.
Located above the Bottoms Up bar on Mission Street by Persia Avenue, Sip has been successful largely because Shirley, who also manages Bottoms Up, worked closely with the neighborhood to overcome some initial resistance in an area already saturated with alcohol vendors. There were also concerns about security, signage and design. Excelsior resident Chris Corgas served as a liaison by arranging meetings with residents who lived close to the bar. Do hired extra security guards, including one who checks IDs at the front of the bar, and installed additional security cameras.
“What Shirley did in the Excelsior went far beyond what any business owners or managers would do in reaching out to the neighborhood,” Corgas says.
Not only does she provide a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing venue for her patrons, Do is also committed to serving the neighborhood. On Dec. 12, Sip will host a fundraising event for the Mission YMCA Christmas toy drive for the children of the Excelsior. Twenty percent of the day’s proceeds from Sip will be donated to the cause. Patrons with ID’s proving they reside in the 94112 zip code will receive a 20 percent discount on their bar purchases. Do has also hosted fundraisers for the Red Cross to help victims of hurricane Katrina, the typhoon in the Philippines, an earthquake in China and other natural disasters.
Stephanie Cajina, executive director of the Excelsior Action Group, says that Sip was in the planning stage for three years before opening for business. EAG served in an advisory capacity in helping Do wade through the permit process. Shirley needed a permit to transform an office space into a bar. Construction took about a year.
The creative blend of wood, tile and glass produces a sleek, attractive and welcoming modern interior design. Patrons have the option of sitting either at the bar or on benches. Seating throughout the bar is cushioned for more comfort. A smaller room in the back offers a more private space with additional seating, a large wooden table and a glass enclosed gas fireplace. The main bar also has a glass fireplace. Many wine bottles are clearly displayed behind two large glass enclosures lining the wall.
Do and Lee estimate that about half of their wines come from Sonoma and Napa, their selection also includes wines from Spain, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Southern Australia and New Zealand. They serve a wide range of appetizers, which are prepared downstairs in the kitchen of Bottoms Up.
The bar enforces a limited dress code. Most attire is acceptable but anyone wearing sports caps or jerseys would be required to remove them in order to gain admittance.
Six years ago, a friend introduced Shirley to the pleasures of wine. A charming and gregarious woman, she mixes easily with customers. Ana Lee, a native of the Excelsior, attended Cleveland Elementary School, Luther Burbank Middle School and Balboa High School. She is responsible for most of the administrative tasks. Kyle Sanders, one of the bartenders, is a marketing major at San Francisco State University. He says Sip takes pride in drawing patrons from all age groups and ethnicities.
The bar hosts wine tastings on some Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The most recent tasting event featured wines from Argentina and Chile. These events will feature wines from a specific winery or a variety of wines from a distributor. The wine tastings have been well attended.
In its short existence, Sip has received rave reviews. Joelle Kenealey, president of the Outer Mission Merchants and Residents Association and a lifelong resident of the Crocker-Amazon, describes Sip as “a beautiful, welcoming space that is a great addition to the neighborhood.” One patron in an on-line review says: “This is just great for the neighborhood. The selection of beers and wines is good, the service was outstanding and the ambiance is perfect. I can’t wait to return.”
Many residents of the Excelsior and Outer Mission believe that Sip could be an anchor business that, in the future, will attract some fine dining restaurants and other high-end businesses to the area.
Sip’s regular hours of operation are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 6:00 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. The bar is closed on Sundays, except during wine tastings.
Sip is located 4704 Mission St.