Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 42 / 16 October 2014
 

Castro’s Swedish hall seeks landmark status; new tenants plan major upgrade, changes to Cafe du Nord

Swedish Hall picThe new year will bring major changes to the Castro’s Swedish American Hall and its basement music venue Cafe du Nord. The historic structure will also be seeking local landmark status.

The rental hall, a popular venue for weddings, at 2174 Market Street was built in 1907 and designed by noted Swedish architect August Nordin. According to a history of the building on its website, the San Francisco Swedish Society’s original meeting place had been lost to the fire caused by the earthquake that devastated the city in 1906.

The society’s members rallied to purchase the lot on Market Street and raised the funds to erect the nordic-inspired building. It was dedicated on December 22, 1907.

The society still owns the building and holds its meetings in a fourth floor meeting room, where its archives are also stored in a library and reading space. Apart from a street level cafe that briefly opened in 2009, the sole tenant at the property has been Cafe du Nord, known for its lineup of local, national and international musical acts.

The underground music venue is located in what had been a former speakeasy. Its operators also handle renting out the upstairs ballroom and several halls located in the building.

Earlier this year Dylan MacNiven, the owner of nearby Woodhouse Fish Company, and his business partner Enrique Larda took over the lease for Cafe du Nord, the eatery space, and the rental spaces inside the structure. The Swedish Society remains the owner of the building.

“We have been working for the last six months on this deal,” MacNiven, who also owns the restaurant West of Pecos on Valencia Street, told Castro merchants at their meeting this morning (Thursday, December 5).

They have been working with the society members to bring the property into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are in the process of installing an elevator and upgrading the bathrooms to be ADA compliant.

“It’s had an elevator shaft for 107 years but they never put in an elevator,” said Larda, noting that the society’s effort to do so in 2008 fell through due to the economic crash that year.

Over the next eight months work will commence on the elevator and bathroom upgrades, soundproofing the entire building, and repainting its facade. The landmarking process is expected to begin this spring so the building is designated as having local historic significance by the fall.

“In the fall of 2014 there will be fully accessible rooms on every floor,” said Larda. “We want to open it up back to the community.”

The new tenants plan to scale back on the number of concerts held at Cafe du Nord and are looking at turning it more into a neighborhood bar. According to the club’s online calendar, it will continue to operate through early January.

Thereafter, several shows have been relocated to other venues around town.

“We will have music but not 200 nights a year of music,” said Larda. “We are looking at having broader programming.”

They are reopening the street-side cafe and intend to serve dinner, with plans to use the kitchen in the actual hall building for a culinary lecture series.

“We are not sure on the food. A lot is up in the air until we have concrete answers on what we can do,” said MacNiven, who lives nearby at 17th and Church.

The building will continue to be available for weddings and receptions as well as other community events. They are in the process of seeking approval to extend the club’s liquor license to cover the entire building, which must be signed off by the city’s planning commission.

— Matthew S. Bajko, December 5, 2013 @ 3:17 pm PST
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