San Francisco’s PianoFight bar to close after 16 years

The popular Bay Area performing arts venue PianoFight announced it will soon present its last act. Today, the venue announced that 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 of doing things,” artistic director Rob Ready said in a press release posted on the venue’s website. “We wanted to lower the barrier to entry so more people could perform; provide infrastructure so artists could focus on art; program eclectically to cross-pollinate creative mediums; and sell burgers and beers so artists could build their communities over a meal.”

Originally started in 2007 as a Bay Area collective of artists who produced their own play, it grew into a production house offering 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 location in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district in 2014, executives at PianoFight estimate the space will have hosted around 6,800 performances. The press release stated the venue had paid local artists $1.3 million since its inception and created $25 million in “local economic activity.”

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

Gil W./Yelp

Annual performances 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 tough decision to close the theaters, according to Ready. Ultimately, staying open for much longer became financially unsustainable.

“Of course it’s sad to close. But we’re so grateful, and so proud of what we’ve been able to do,” executive director Dan Williams said in the press release. “We’ve hosted comedy, plays, music, dance, drag, magic, burlesque, circus, podcasts, films, 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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