San Francisco’s PianoFight bar is closing after 16 years

Popular Bay Area performing arts venue PianoFight announced that it will soon present its final act. Today, the venue announced it would be closing its two Bay Area locations, San Francisco and Oakland. The last day for both will be March 18.

“PianoFight started because we thought there could be a different and fun way to do things,” artistic director Rob Ready said in a press release posted on the venue’s website. “We wanted to lower the barrier of entry so more people could perform; providing infrastructure so artists could focus on art; program eclectically to cross-pollinate creative media; and sell burgers and beer so artists could build their communities over a meal.”

Originally started in 2007 as a Bay Area collective of artists producing their own play, it has grown into a production house that offers four stages, multiple rehearsal studios, an art gallery, a restaurant, a bar and even office space for up-and-coming artists. At its core, PianoFight was a place built for a community of artists to share their talent.

The San Francisco location, at 144 Taylor St., was home to the first Original Joe’s, which now has North Beach and Daly City restaurants. Since taking over the venue in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district in 2014, executives at PianoFight estimate that the space will have hosted about 6,800 performances. The press release stated that the venue had paid local artists $1.3 million since its inception and generated $25 million in “local economic activity.”

PianoFight is set to close its San Francisco and Oakland locations in mid-March.

Gil W./Yelp

Annual appearances at the “most active live performance venue on the West Coast,” according to the press release, included SF SketchFest, the San Francisco Improv Festival and the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival, to name a few.

In May 2020, PianoFight opened its second venue, in Oakland. PianoFight Oakland, at 1540 Broadway, became a home for Oakland School for the Arts students to practice their craft.

The pandemic led to the difficult decision to close the theaters, according to Ready. In the end, it became financially unsustainable to stay open much longer.

“Of course it is sad to close. But we are so grateful and so proud of what we have been able to do,” says CEO Dan Williams in the press release. “We’ve hosted comedy, acting, music, dance, drag, magic, burlesque, circus, podcasts, movies, video game tournaments and game shows. We said yes to everything because we could, we wanted to, and it was more fun than saying no.”

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