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Gutted by a Fire, the Riptide Looks to Reopen

Still needs a new spirit animal, though.


The Riptide is back—almost. Ever since the bar's tragic gutting by fire last August, the Outer Sunset has been without one of its favorite neighborhood institutions. But now a rebuilt Riptide is finally within sight: A new roof recently went on, and owners David Quinby and Les James are putting the pieces back together, antique by antique. "We lost all the original Barbary Coast pieces, and we're trying to find more of those," says Quinby. "We want to open as the same musical chapel we were before." The owners hope to unveil the new old bar in late spring.

The fire destroyed the bar's eclectic collection of decorations and memorabilia—James's family heirlooms, a 1980s surfboard given by a patron, souvenirs from Quinby's trips to Syria and Iraq, and Boo, the 150-year-old caribou head that presided over the bar. "The slate is wiped clean," says Quinby, who opened the Riptide in 2004 with James. "It's surreal." 

Patrons have been offering up new pieces of memorabilia, to help re-create the Riptide as an eclectic repository of the neighborhood's life. "People have been telling us, 'We've got stuff we'd like to add back to the collection," says Quinby. "They've been sending us pictures of things they've made." To replace an autographed Johnny Cash album that burned, one friend hand-built a frame for a Life magazine cover featuring Cash, with a spot for Quinby's remaining Cash artifact, an autographed dollar bill.

A GoFundMe fundraiser last fall helped offset the bar's losses, though Quinby declines to give the amount raised or the cost of rebuilding. An early fire department estimate found at least $600,000 in damages.

The owners are also at work on starting up a restaurant two doors down—a project that the fire put on hold. Reopening the bar is the owners' first priority.

Meanwhile, they're hunting for a new taxidermied spirit animal. "I love mountain goats," says Quinby. "And Les found a walrus head, so who knows what we'll end up with. We're looking for an animal with as peaceful an expression as Boo had. She seemed to approve of the musicians who were playing—whatever was going on."


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