BY BETH ALLEN
December 2009: So I get an email from my vanning friend Rob telling me about a new bar in San Francisco called the KOZY KAR that is 100% VAN themed! All I could think of was — HOT DAMN! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS FIRST?? I knew I had to check it out ASAP, so my boyfriend Kevin and I, along with our friends Lisa and Matt, went to scope out the scene on a Saturday night.
The Kozy Kar’s minimal Web site boasts “Kozy Kar is a bar designed after the custom vans of the 1970s and early 198’s. Enjoy Eight track players, CB radios, waterbeds, chain steering wheels, shag, mirrored ceilings while rocking to 70s & 80s music.” And that’s EXACTLY what it is. We got there before 10pm and walked right in. Wasn’t too crowded yet, so we atucally scored a waterbed “booth” to hang out in. And not just one of the waterbeds, the one that is inside the shell of an actual van itself that is IN THE BAR! It’s complete with front captains chairs and CB radio. Apparently you can call other booths in the bar that also have CB’s but it didn’t seem to be working... Cool idea though. One thing about the Kozy Kar is that it’s definately “cozy”. It’s not very big but has a lot of embellishments packed in. If the devil is in the details this place has sold itself to satan — the small things are what blew me away the most. Tables built with car jacks as legs, chainlink steering wheel chandeliers over the bar, fun fur framed girlie pictures with lights behind them that changed colors, puffy vinyl on the walls, a floor collaged with tits and ass spreads from 70s porno mags... woah. Only thing missing were the dingleballs! I took a bunch of photos, check out a slideshow here.
We ordered a round and while I am the farthest thing from a beer snob, I was bummed there was no Budweiser. Just Coors, Pabst (in cans of course), Fat Tire and I think IPA. Fuck the Fat Tire and IPA! Bring on the Bud guys!! Seriously.
The 70s and 80s tunes were cranked — although it was not the Nuge, Zepplin, Sabbath that I expected but more on the new wave end of things, which I can’t complain about ’cause I love 80s new wave. The atmosphere was A-OK (minus the Budweiser thing) — except for one thing. The crowd, well, it just wasn’t the type of folks I feel like getting drunk with. Seeing as I clock in most all of my bar time hanging out in places with scummy punk rocker types and rock and roll bands, I just didn’t see anyone — and I mean ANYone — at the Kozy Kar I would have even felt like talking too. I have no idea where these people came from but it’s not the San Francisco I know and love. The patrons all seemed young and Marina-bound. I dunno. Just didn’t do it for me.
We left after a few rounds and a huge line had formed outside of people just waiting to get in. So while the place left me with a decor-orgasm, it just isn’t somewhere I’d hang out, but obviously other people feel otherwise. Love the look though, yes, I looooove the look. Thanks to Sam, Kozy Kar owner and the mind behind the masterpiece, for indulging me by answering some email questions about the bar.
Name, Age, Occupation....
Sam Young, 39, bar owner
Do you have a van?
The van I owned is in the bar Are the solo owner or do you have partners? I’m the sole owner but I depend on Matty Knuth, who has helped me tremendously.
How long has Kozy Kar been open? 4 months Who had the idea for Kozy Kar?
I had the idea for Kozy years ago, but didn’t have an opportunity to build it until now.
WHY custom vans?? Always thought they were cool. I also think that they are unappreciated in our culture. They represented freedom and individuality, which is lost in today’s world.
Who did you work with to build the interior?
I thought of the entire interior. Matty Knuth helped me build the bar.
Where did the ideas come from — and was it hard to make them work?
The ideas came from my head. There were no plans. Whatever came into my head that day is what was done.
How long did it take?
Where’d you get all the parts?
The Windsor Pick and Pull
Was it hard to get the full van body inside?
Not really. Cutting it up with a saws-all was the hard part.
I like the “details” — it’s obvious a lot of TLC was put into them... love the steering wheel lights over the bar! What’s your favorite aspect of the bar? The waterbeds? The CBs?....
The steering wheel lights are my favorite. I also love all the centerfolds since they are from the 70s only.
Where are the dingleballs??????
We had them up yet people kept pulling on them.
Why don’t you put satin sheets on the waterbeds?
Satin sheets stain to easily and are too slippery!
How often do you wash the waterbed pad covers (ahhaha)?
Once a weekÖ.
I haven’t seen the Men’s Room, but the ladies room — aside from the cool rear view mirrors — was kinda dull. Why’d you leave it so plain as compared to the rest of the bar?
The floor of the woman’s room in covered in centerfolds too...
Why such a limited drink menu? Do you think it’s funny when people bitch about it?
We don’t have a limited drink selection and I’m confused when people say that. We don’t carry 10 vodkas but do you really need a choice of ten? We carry what sells. I’ve owned 10 bars in 18 years so I have a fairly good idea of what people want. We do not carry any bottled beer. People flip out about this for some reason. They’re convinced that bottled beer taste differently, even though it does not. There’s no way a company would put they’re product into a can if it at all altered the taste. If someone complains about PBR or Schlitz I always remind them that their parents drank it and America grew up with these beers so why are these beers not good enough for them?
What’s your idea of the perfect customer?
Anyone who comes in with a good attitude, who respects others and is there to have a good time.
Chevy, Dodge or Ford?
Ass, Gas or Grass?
Favorite 70s band?
You told me you hate the media... why?
I don’t mind the media if they’re fair. When the bar first opened, some of the media was not too kind. The problem was that they did not understand the bar and the concept. Instead of writing about design aspects they concentrated on issues that were beyond my control, such as the crowd, that there was a line, that the room was not large enough and that there was no tap beer. The crowd is great, the line is due to building codes, I did not build the structure from scratch and there is no room for tap beer.
Do you own other bars? Which ones?
I currently own the DragonBar and Kozy Kar. I used to own the Desert Moon, Comet Club, Blues, HiFi, Bamboo Hut, HiBall Lounge, Cloud 9 Motel and Mr. Smith’s.
1548 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA. 94109
PICTURED ABOVE: (Top to Bottom) The floor at the Kozy Kar, Lisa and Matt in our waterbed booth, Me hanging out in the driverís seat with CB.