Benjamin Cooper / San Francisco

398 Geary St Mason St San Francisco 94102
Opening Hours
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri 17:00 - 00:20
Sat 18:00 - 00:20
Description

Benjamin Cooper was born in the dark morning hours of May 8, 1885 in the outermost neighborhood of the Bronx, New York, a waning moon overhead. A robust baby of nine pounds, he was the first born son of Russian-Jewish immigrants Vlad, a skilled violin maker, and Marjorie, the county's foremost authority on herbal alchemy. Having demonstrated great scholastic promise, Cooper set off to study law at the University of Pennsylvania, with aspirations of becoming a legislator. He was the top student in his class when his academic career ended suddenly and bitterly, just short of his first year. The precise circumstances remain unclear, but some sources claim he was wrongfully expelled after an altercation with the son of the Dean of Humanities. Following his dismissal, Cooper began working at a bonded whiskey house in Philadelphia, a job which afforded him a great deal of friends and admirers in the nighttime establishments of the area. One such friend was John Ross Hardy, a self-made real estate tycoon and notoriously lubricated bachelor. Hardy and Cooper formed a fast friendship that led them to take a hunting trip to Hardy's native St. Louis, a holiday from which Benjamin never returned. Enchanted by the spirit of adventure, Cooper took a job as the barkeep of the riverboat The Unknown Splendor. Touring up and down the Mississippi, he acquired a substantial taste for earthly pleasures and a reputation as a merciless card player. The crew was out for a night of amusement in New Orleans when Cooper encountered a striking young woman working at Silah's Red Lounge, an infamous house of ill-repute. She was Leona Palomino, a runaway from New Mexico trying to find a door into the local entertainment industry. Ben and Leona's love arrived with immediate and lasting vigor. Within a fortnight of meeting, he resolved that he would make a new life for her in California. She accepted his hasty marriage proposal on the condition her family embraced him, and thus Leona and Ben set out west. On March 21, 1904 Benjamin and Leona were married at Rancho Palomino, a humble plot situated twelve miles outside of Truth or Consqeuences, New Mexico. They spent the next year traveling on horseback throughout the southwest, studying the plant traditions of the native populations and sleeping under the stars. When money became scarce, they sold the horses to purchase train fare to Reno, Nevada. There, Benjamin put to use his talent at the card table, causing an uproar amongst some of his more rugged opponents. The newlyweds narrowly escaped a gunfight before departing for San Francisco with their winnings. They arrived dusty and without prospects, yet alight with the fire of optimism. Hard-pressed to find decent work, Cooper ended up taking a job in the kitchen of Frank's Fish & Shell. Cooper negotiated an exchange with the establishment's sympathetic owner Frank Delafor wherein he and Leona would clean the restaurant nightly in exchange for staying in a one-bedroom apartment above. The young couple struggled contentedly until Leona discovered she was with child. The pregnancy proved difficult for Leona, and as such they decided to relocate to Gilded Mesa, a small farm in Bolinas owned by a family friend of the Palominos. Reno Hawk Cooper was born on April 17, 1906, the day before the great earthquake struck San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, the Coopers received notice that Delafor, their beloved employer, had died in the quake and left his business and a modest sum of money to Benjamin. The family returned to the city to restore the establishment as a bar called Frank's, in remembrance of its original owner. With Ben's knowledge of fine spirits and Leona's touch for hospitality, Frank's quickly made a name for itself as one of the best places to get a drink in town. At once convivial and elegant, Frank's was known for its live entertainment and affordable oyster platter. Over the next decade, the business continued to grow, as did the Cooper family, with twins Quinn and Lucy arriving in the Indian summer of 1910. Always a patriot, Cooper enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on April 30, 1917, just two weeks after the country entered the first World War. Due to his age and natural leadership abilities, Cooper quickly rose to the rank of a respected Sergeant. During his absence, Leona kept Frank's thriving and offered substantial support to the wives and families of soldiers. Ben returned home in the summer of 1918 with a purple heart and a bronze star for bravery after rescuing Major General Omar Bundy in the Battle of Belleau Wood. He joined Leona in her efforts to care for veterans and families affected by the war, offering housing, employment, and complimentary beverages to the bereft. Bolstered by the adoration of the community, Cooper decided to run for mayor of San Francisco. While campaigning at a rowdy Anti-Prohibition protest, Cooper interceded in a fight between the protestors and members of the Anti-Saloon League. Witnesses say as the skirmish escalated, Cooper was pushed into the middle of Stockton Street, where he was hit by an oncoming street car that put him into a coma. Benjamin Cooper died one week later on January 16, 1919, the day the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution banning the sale and consumption of alcohol was ratified. By the time Prohibition went into affect a year later, Leona had re-established Frank's as Cooper's Family Restaurant. She continued to serve the people until her death on March 21, 1954, which would have been her and Ben's 50th wedding anniversary. This bar pays tribute to the life and times of Benjamin Cooper by continuing his legacy of generosity, adventure, and dedication to fine spirits.

from official Facebook page
average 3452 votes
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Critic Reviews @ Benjamin Cooper
Meet Benjamin Cooper, Union Square's Tiniest Artisan Cocktail Den
Meet Benjamin Cooper, Union Square's Tiniest Artisan Cocktail Den View this gallery here. ... continue Eater SF
First Look: Benjamin Cooper Opens Upstairs from 398 Restaurant on March 5
First Look: Benjamin Cooper Opens Upstairs from 398 Restaurant on March 5 In December, 398, an inviting new Union Square restaurant opened. Now, this Thursday, March 5, Benjamin Cooper opens upstairs, hidden from the bustle outside through a discreet door ... continue Zagat
Tips from the Net @ Benjamin Cooper
Simon Kratzer en
Our waiter was a bit overwhelmed since it was his second day. But he even provided us with some historic facts. Plus the cocktails are exotic and good. Foursquare - August 2017
Brian Barwig en
Awesome small bar in the Hotel G. Easy to miss this place but worthwhile if you're looking for decent drinks and oysters. Good bartenders GooglePlace - August 2017
Jonathan Clarke en
Bartender is a real dick, terrible service. Vibe is ok Drinks were pretty good GooglePlace - July 2017
Tim O'kelly en
Great drinks, and a great atmosphere. My waiter was very helpful with explaining the menu. I'm definitely stopping though next month when I'm back in town. GooglePlace - July 2017
Tim Bush en
Cool spot for a cocktail or beer. Limited seating, so get there early and work your way through the drinks list 👍 Foursquare - July 2017