Presenting The San Francisco Bath House
“It is never too late to become what you might have
Presenting The San Francisco Bath House
Indigo Bar and Venue, now under new ownership, is undergoing a name change, a rebrand and a re-fit. From April The San Francisco Bathhouse will be the place to experience live music in Wellington.
The San Francisco Bath House is now owned and operated by two successful Wellingtonians, both vastly experienced in bar management and the business of entertainment. Tim Ward brought us Hole in The Wall way back in the 90’s, moved on to start The Matterhorn, the short lived Shopping club and more recently with current partner Clinton den Heyer, Good Luck Bar. Clinton is an old school Wellington scenester, formerly part of Welly rockers Weta, Clinton traveled the globe working bars and stars before settling back into Cuba Street life again, partnering with Tim in Good Luck and now SFBH.
After research into both the history of the venue and live music venues worldwide, Tim and Clinton decided to re-brand Indigo under one of the venue’s former names ‘The San Francisco Bath House’. This name stirs imagery of the past and parallels the international movement of sites reverting to their historical names such as the Knitting Factory, Grocery, Chic Hall’s Surf Club and The Beauty Bar. This drift towards historical names immerses venues in their past, giving them a resource to draw from in their marketing, branding, their décor and soul.
171 Cuba Street was built in the 1920’s as a purpose built factory for the assembly of shoes. Later as manufacturing was pushed out of the now inner city a wrestling gym, Koolman’s Gym, was named after its patron. His children, now in their fifties clearly remember its grand entrance and ascending the stairs to the gym after school to watch their father give classes. When the Gym ceased to operate a natural next tenant was a Bathhouse. The San Francisco Bath House utilized the existing showering facilities and the grand entrance, adding a steam room and plunge pool. Decorated with mosaic tiling it was not a humble retreat but a lush after work escape. The San Francisco Bath House moved to another old restaurant district, Willis Street where it continued to exist until the early 80s.
But now 171 Cuba Street became the home of fishermen, as the interior was paper machéd into stalagmites and stalactites. Partnered with Sydney and Hong Kong, Cuba Street, Wellington, was renowned amongst merchant seamen and fishermen as a great place to party. The street itself descended into recession and no middle class housewife would shop there for many years to come. The venue carried several names over the shortest part of its history - The Cave, Ali Baba’s, Staxs, Tycody’s (named after the proprietor’s sons Ty and Cody), Sonic Temple, Stilettos (a Hell’s Angels strip bar)… Stilettos lasted two weeks until Wellington’s only girly bar mogul ran the boys back to their pad in Berhampore. At this stage the building seemed to have a multitude of layers as every bar, club or strip joint that occupied it added more and more.
Enter Adrian, the founder of Indigo. Adrian did the hard yards removing the layers but failed to reveal much in terms of character. Stephen followed, the name continued, and Adrian’s vision of live international and national acts was realised. But not by Stephen’s doing, it was in fact his Human Resources capability of locating Mr. B. Moran. Brendan, along with a core of loyal and friendly staff, still ply the boards that make up The San Francisco Bath House.
As The San Francisco Bath House the venue continues to support and engage the best national and international performers on its stage, bringing a quality mid size venue to all music lovers. With a focus on the acts and an open music policy, The San Francisco Bath House is committed to providing quality to Wellington. Acts coming up in April and May include The Skatalites, The Mountain Goats, The Opensouls, A Low Hum, Pluto, Atomic and The Phoenix Foundation.