The Washington Square Bar & Grill was once the hottest place in San Francisco, and today, it’s history.
The artifacts from the place – menus, photographs, drawings, newsletters, jerseys from the house softball team called Les Lapins Sauvages, newspaper columnist Stanton Delaplane’s typewriter, martini glasses, memories – have all been shipped to the San Francisco Public Library History Center. The trademark wooden WSB&G sign that graced the outside of the restaurant for more than 30 years is headed to the library.
All will go on display eventually, next to other historical items.
“It was an institution,” Susan Goldstein, the city archivist, said of the bar and grill. “It represented an interesting cultural moment in San Francisco. There are a lot of pictures of important people who went there. People want to come and do research.”
“You never know who you’d see there,” said Ken Maley, who worked as a public relations man for the owners, Sam Deitsch and Ed Moose.
The host, Moose, a big, tall man with an even bigger personality, knew everybody, he knew their names, he knew what they liked. He made the Washington Square the place to go in San Francisco.
The place was filled with celebrities: Tom Brokaw, Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Tom Wolfe, Bob Lurie, who owned the Giants, Will Clark, who played first base, Steve Young, the 49ers’ quarterback, senators, and almost every mayor of San Francisco.
But it was also a place for San Franciscans, where people knew each other, people who liked San Francisco, liked to drink and talk – drawn by “the magnetism of a small place,” Ed Moose might say.
“You went because of Ed and Sam and the music and the clientele,” said Mary Etta Moose, who was Ed’s wife. “But it was the customers who made the place. They created the atmosphere. You know what they say – you can’t have a play without an audience, and the audience is part of the play.”
The back story: The Washington Square Bar & Grill opened in 1973, replacing a bar run by Rose Evangelisti – they called her Rose Pistola because she always kept a pistol under the bar. The Washington Square Bar & Grill had a New York feel, with San Francisco touches, old pictures and such.
It was slow at first, then all at once it was a hit. The place was so crowded that one night even Ed Moose himself couldn’t get in. By 1987, it did more business per seat than any other San Francisco restaurant.
Herb Caen called it “the Washbag,” but Moose hated that name; he called it the Square.
Moose and Deitsch sold the place in 1990, and Moose ended up at a new restaurant on the other side of Washington Square. The Washbag kept going for another 10 years, but Peter Osborne, a later owner, sold it and opened MoMo’s, a new place South of Market, across from the ballpark. The Washbag turned into a blue-themed establishment called Cobalt, but when that didn’t fly, it became the Washington Square Bar & Grill again. It folded a second time, then reopened in 2009.
“There are no second acts in American lives,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald. That goes double for bars.
The Washington Square Bar & Grill closed for good in August 2010, on the same day Ed Moose died.
The restaurant is now called Bottle Cap.
Maley, who loved the old place, talked the new owners into giving him the Washbag artifacts. “I didn’t want to see them end up at some garage sale or on eBay,” he said. “They are part of our history. There will never be another Washington Square Bar & Grill.”