The Residence, aka Amber Redux: Less Smoky, More Homey

Denise Feltham
Paging Mister Goodbarr. Mister Goodbarr? Oh, he's outside, smoking.
Peeking through the windows, the atmosphere at Amber often looked opaque -- or at least, translucent gray. The Castro bar opened seven years ago as a defiant smoker's destination; all of its workers were partner-owners, wiggling around California's smoking ban, and the haze kept nonsmokers from coming in and snarking on their right to puff. But Marija Maldonado, one of the leading partners, quit the cigarettes three years ago, and eventually convinced the others to go smoke-free. "Everyone's used to going outside now," Maldonado says. "We had gotten to a point where it was tough to attract new customers, and tough to get group parties because not everyone's a smoker."

The ABC gives bar owners two weeks to shut down and make repairs; longer than that, and they have to surrender their liquor license and go through another inspection. So from January 1 to 15, Amber's 10 working partners worked morning to night to remove everything that smelled like smoke -- in short, everything -- and then strip the paint and repaint, install the wood paneling that leading partner Peter Garcia had been staining in his garage, build a bar in the back, and rebrand as The Residence. The newly smokeless bar opened to the public Saturday night.

Inspired by Campbell Apartment in New York's Grand Central Station, The Residence is meant to look like someone's apartment -- albeit the apartment of no one you know. The partner-bartenders have created a Charlie to their Angels, a "Mister Goodbarr," a world traveler who leads the cocktail menu with a note to his "guests" and returns from his "travels" every couple of months with "souvenirs" and drink specials -- i.e., when Mister Goodbarr returns from Chile, Garcia will design pisco drinks to pimp. "It keeps us from being stagnant, and as bartenders, from being bored," says Maldonado. Here's hoping Mister Goodbarr will treat his guests slightly better than another fictional Mister Goodbar did Diane Keaton.

The Residence 718 14th St. (at Church), 797-8866

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