Bouncer Gives a Hobson's Choice to a Panhandler Outside Hobson's Choice

Categories: Bouncer

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From this week's Bouncer column:

Hobson's Choice is a great name for a bar in this town, and not just because it's also the title to a great David Lean film. The phrase "Hobson's Choice" is a reference to Thomas Hobson, who was a postal carrier in 1500s England. When he wasn't using his horses to jam peasants' mailboxes with Olde Costco circulars, he was renting out his horses to anyone who needed a lift. According to lore, he got sick of people always asking for the same fast horses and ignoring perfectly good fillies like Molasses or Ol' Peg Leg. He developed the policy of having full say in what horse you ended up with -- when you rented from Tom, you got what he gave you. This became known as "Hobson's Choice," a phrase that now conveys any "take it or leave it" choice between something and nothing. (This is not the same as "I made him an offer he couldn't refuse," or "Cake or death," which are technically choices between an offer and "death," which is something, not nothing.)

Now, why one would name their bar after this figure of speech is another story, especially when the bar makes rum punches in several flavors. Here, you actually get to choose which one you want. I suppose the bartender could say, "And we will put any liquor you want in it, as long as it's rum."

Hobson's Choice on Haight bills itself as a "Victorian punch house," so I'm guessing that the allusion is probably to the movie, which is set in the Victorian times and involves alcoholism. The movie also features Prunella Scales, which has to be the best name for an actress since Agnes Moorehead.

It is pretty Victorian up in that bitch, except for the flat-screen TVs and music that is not about bicycles built for two (Okay, gentle but nerdy readers, before you argue that "Bicycle Built For Two" is not a Victorian song, it was written in 1892, when Queen Victoria was still alive). There are gaslight-style glass chandeliers, some ceiling fans, and a big ficus. It's like being in Charles Dickens' rec room...

... continue reading this week's Bouncer column.

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Hobson's Choice

1601 Haight, San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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