San Fran back with new style

FRESH OFFERINGS: The team behind the newly rebooted San Fran bar on Cuba St, from left, manager Ziggy Ziya, contract brewer Shiggy Takagi and co-owner Tim Ward.
FRESH OFFERINGS: The team behind the newly rebooted San Fran bar on Cuba St, from left, manager Ziggy Ziya, contract brewer Shiggy Takagi and co-owner Tim Ward.

The new San Fran is determined not to be the next to go, after the closure of Puppies and Mighty Mighty.

When many businesses faced a difficult time financially last year, owner Tim Ward took the opportunity to revamp the Cuba St venue.

It closed in December for earthquake strengthening and to increase the maximum capacity from 250 to 500.

Beers, bites and sunlight have transformed the former San Francisco Bath House into a lighter, brighter version of itself.

However, when it officially re-opened this month the capacity had not changed.

A few stages and documents were required before the capacity increased, Ward said.

"That's a work in progress," he said.

"That sort of thing takes more time than the decorating. We were able to put the decorating in place and keep working towards the capacity going up.

"Hopefully it's a quick process but we'll see."

The kitchen size has been reduced to make the space larger, and three skylights were installed to lighten the venue and encourage diners.

Timber panels have covered the wall behind the bar and moveable bar leaners, designed by Ward, have also been introduced.

Ward said recycling furniture was his idea.

"I'm a scavenger at heart," he said.

"I wanted to really create somewhere that's unique. We're keeping a rustic and iconic Wellington feel.

"We reused and upcycled as much as possible."

Local suppliers and tradesmen went the extra mile during the work's completion, he said.

"Some people have given their time for free, because they believe in the importance of San Fran and having it in Wellington," he said.

The bar's stage and graffiti- covered green room have remained intact.

The original couches were upcycled to create a new dining space and the menu has changed to feature American- style tapas and meats smoked in a bourbon barrel.

A wide selection of Wellington and Californian beers have been introduced by San Fran partner and Wellington brewer Shigeo Takagi.

A regular quiz, dance competitions and beer tastings would help attract customers earlier in the day, venue manager Ziggy Ziya said.

"We have to think outside the square," he said.

"I don't want to see this area in Te Aro lose another space.

"We're in here for the long haul."

San Fran is open Tuesday till Saturday from 3pm till late.


The 1920s building at 171 Cuba St was a shoe factory until manufacturing was pushed out of the inner city.

Koolman's Gym for wrestling took over the site, installing showers and sports facilities. The next owners utilised the shower facilities to transform the venue into The San Francisco Bath House, adding a steam room, plunge pool and mosaic tiling. The Bath House later moved to Willis St, where it remained until the 1980s.

The Cuba St site then changed its name many times from The Cave to Ali Baba's, Staxs, Tycody's, Sonic Temple, strip bar Stilettos and finally Indigo Bar.

Tim Ward and Clinton den Heyer took over the venue in 2006, renaming it The San Francisco Bath House.

The Wellingtonian