Here's an ad from a 1994 SF Weekly:
As you can see, six bars are listed there. I did some research and by research I mean Googling for 10 minutes and here's what we've learned:
Jack's Bar - Maybe the flagship? Who knows. It was at 1601 Fillmore and is now the Boom Boom Room. I can remember going there when it was still Jack's. According to "Historic Walks in San Francisco: 18 Trails Through the City's Past," Jack's originally opened in 1933 on Sutter and was the first bar in the area to cater to African-Americans. Pretty cool. When I went there it seemed like it catered mostly to drunk white boys like myself. I remember a lot of taps? Was that their thing? Maybe.
Jack's Cable Car - at 1548 California, now the horribly-named "Soda Popinski's." In the interim it was apparently at some point called "California Dream'n," as referenced in this SF Weekly piece that notes that the Jack's Cable Car sign is still out front.
|via SF Weekly, natch|
Jack's Elixir - is now, unsurprisingly, Elixir, at the corner of 16th and Guerrero. According to Elixir's own website, it was a Jack's only from 1990 to 1998. I can definitely remember coming here when it was a Jack's.
Jack's Taps - This is the one that blew me away. At 1300 Church (at 25th), it's now a "Purely Physical Fitness," which I guess is the opposite of a bar. Walking by there, there is no indication that it used to be a bar. I had no idea.
Jack's Presidio - Well, I guess this one surprised me too. 3490 California, now a UCSF Primary Care center, which I guess is just as opposite of a bar as a gym. I have no memory of ever hearing anything about Jack's Presidio, but apparently it was a bar as late as 1994. Street view for 3490 California gives no hint:
Based on that picture (which looks like it could be in Anytown, CA, BTW), I would say the building housing Jack's Presidio has long since been demolished.
So that's about it. I have this feeling there has to be a much better history of the Jack's chain of bars somewhere so if you know where that is, please point me to it. It's kind of amazing that this whole chain just disappeared without a trace.
(Postscript: I have no idea if Jack's Cannery Bar is a holdout or is in any way related to the original Jack's chain. I kind of doubt it but I could be wrong.)
UPDATE!!!!! Reader Stephen has reminded us that the current home of Emperor Norton's Boozeland (which is a fine bar in its own right and worth a visit for the $3 Anchor California Lager on tap alone [but that might just be for happy hour]) used to be Jack's Deco and then just Deco. In fact, if you had the magical ability to see to the left and right of the ad pictured at top, you'd see the next door neighbor ad on the left is for the uni-named "Deco," indicating that Jack had already left the building, Thanks, Stephen!
FURTHER UPDATE!!!! Another helpful reader writes in with memories about the mysterious Jack's Presidio:
Re Jack's Presidio location: I have lived in LH since 1986. The picture you have on your web site shows a mixed-use building with apartments, Charles Schwab, a high-end sandwich place, etc. Before that building, however, there was a big diner called the Sugar Plum, which was a much larger version of the Zim's and Miz Browne's Feed Bag diners across the street in Laurel Village. It had a small cocktail lounge built inside it.
Yes, at one time there were three diners in the hood, and now there are none. But we do have an eatery with the ridiculously precious name Beautifull!, which sells yuppie catnip at stoopid prices.
Anyway, sometime circa the early 1990s, the Jack's Bars began to explode throughout the city, grabbing on to the early microbrew explosion in SF, which began in the mid-1980s. From my memory, the Jack in the Mission was the first one, with all other ones branching off from that...but my memory only goes back to 1984, when I moved here.
So, the small cocktail lounge was replaced by a Jack's branch. Absolutely nothing was done to the interior to modify or upgrade it. It was still a hole-in-the-wall, just with a better beer selection. It offered the nice opportunity to do a beer "runner" between that location and the Pig and Whistle, which opened up a Geary/Laurel circa the early 1990s. Jack's Presidio only stayed open a few years, though, maybe 2-3.