I’m at a booth in the corner of Shotwell’s saloon, Pilsener in hand, and a very drunk man is thrown out of the bar. He grins maskless and sways a little when the bartender yells at him to get out.

Today is the first day that San Francisco is on the yellow row. So it is also the first day in almost exactly a year and two months that the bars can be reopened for indoor use without having to serve food. I’ve dressed up for the occasion, my first real night since my full vaccination – purple eyeshadow and a leather jacket – but as soon as I step into Shotwell I feel overclothed.

It’s pretty dead, even though it’s only 6:30 p.m. A few groups cavort at tables and quietly drink beer, dressed in sweatshirts and baseball caps. They’re inside and don’t wear masks that I know are fine in my head. I’m vaccinated and so are 72% of the Franciscans, but wow, that’s wild.

I’ve frozen my ass on all of my share of parklets for the past year, but when I go into a regular old indoor watering hole, I’m not sure what exactly to do. Do I wait in front for them to seat me? Will someone take my temperature? Fortunately, the bartender takes me out of my misery and calls behind the bar for my order.

The exterior of Shotwell’s Saloon in San Francisco on May 6, 2021. For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March 2020, guests were able to drink in an indoor bar.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

My colleague Doug and I find a cozy spot in the back where our feet dangle from leather stools. I take off my mask, take a sip of my beer and look nervously at the group of four who are lying a few meters away at the next table. I remember the extremely low fall rates in San Francisco, notice the generous flow of outside air and breathe a little easier.

Time to make friends.

The group next to us consists of two couples who live around the corner – they call themselves a “quarantine team”. We all do this weird thing where we tell each other we are vaccinated and then they tell me this is the first time they go out inside.

“This is the place,” says Jordan Pailthorpe, the guy closest to me. “That’s why we’re so excited to be back inside.”

The two couples first met at Shotwell and one even got engaged at the bar. During the pandemic, they maintained their status as regulars, drank at the bar’s outdoor seating and bought their merch.

Left to right, Jordan Pailthorpe, Emily Allen,

From left to right, Jordan Pailthorpe, Emily Allen, “Brie” and another regular pose for a photo at Shotwell’s Saloon in San Francisco on May 6, 2021. Guests were able to drink from inside a bar for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdowns began in March 2020.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

“We keep our local bar alive,” said Emily Allen, who sits next to Pailthorpe.

I hold on to the owner to ask about the return of indoor drinking. He seems less excited than you think, and then the man with the face who was kicked out earlier tries to make a second appearance and I see why.

“This guy apparently went from zero to 60,” says Tom Madonna, shaking his head. “We didn’t experience that either. This is the second time in a year that this obnoxiousness has happened. “

He didn’t fail to stay open until 2am (“Nothing good happens after midnight,” he says). And he’s not looking forward to the return of ill-behaved out-of-towers unlike the dedicated regulars he says kept Shotwell afloat. But when San Francisco reopens, he is relieved to think of a return to stability.

“The second ban was brutal. I don’t think people saw it coming and we weren’t prepared. … It’s amazing how quickly you make money when your income stops, ”says Madonna. “It was very stressful. Now when people say, “Oh, the variants” and maybe make new recordings, they say, “I can’t hear any of it.” I’m not talking about it. ‘I don’t live in that headspace in my head. I shot twice. We are all good. Bring it on.”

Owner Tom Madonna poses for a photo behind the bar at Shotwell's Saloon in San Francisco on May 6, 2021. For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March 2020, guests were able to drink in an indoor bar.

Owner Tom Madonna poses for a photo behind the bar at Shotwell’s Saloon in San Francisco on May 6, 2021. For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March 2020, guests were able to drink in an indoor bar.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Now more people are filtering into the bar. It’s definitely not a mob scene, but it feels pretty normal for a low-key neighborhood bar. We order another round of beer. I wave to a toddler who stares at me. An unsupervised Chihuahua runs up to me and sniffs my hand. I really missed bar dogs.

Then a man sneaks up to our left with a can of cider. He’s wearing a Shotwell sweatshirt, so I ask him if he’s a regular too.

“I don’t like that term,” he says. “I am part of the furniture.”

This is Josh Ziering, and we don’t know yet, but he’ll soon be our new best friend.

Shotwell’s was the first bar he went to when he first moved to San Francisco in 2013, and he basically never left. Even during the pandemic.

Left to right, Jordan Pailthorpe, Emily Allen,

From left to right, Jordan Pailthorpe, Emily Allen, “Brie,” a patron saint, and Josh Ziering laugh at Shotwell’s Saloon in San Francisco on May 6, 2021. Guests could see for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March 2020.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

“I used to do a strange ritual,” he tells me. “I left my house and went down Valencia Street. I took this lovely little walk. I finished it here and had a few drinks outside. So when the sun went down to a point where it was uncomfortable to be outside and the wind finally came to me. I would somehow snake my way home.

“And it was lovely to do, but I prefer the insignia of indoor spaces: a nice padded stool to sit on, a table to put my drink on that won’t blow away,” he continues. “… It has what it takes to be a cold San Francisco summer to enjoy libations indoors – I think everyone is so ready for this moment.”

We spoke to Ziering for about 15 minutes when he offered to buy his “secret drink”. Shotwell’s is a beer bar, so despite its name, there are no recordings here – but there are digestifs.

He brings us small bottles of Underberg, which he describes as “if Jäger and Fernet had a butt baby”. The ritual is specific: we unwrap the paper cover, shake the bottles, knock them on the table, cheer, and then let them down.

“You will want a high angle of attack,” instructs Ziering.

We empty the little bottles into our mouths and just got initiated like that.

From left to right, Jeremiah Botchlet, Patrick Houck and Luke Roy meet with beer on May 6, 2021 at Shotwell's Saloon in San Francisco.  For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began, guests were able to drink in an indoor bar in March 2020.

From left to right, Jeremiah Botchlet, Patrick Houck and Luke Roy meet with beer on May 6, 2021 at Shotwell’s Saloon in San Francisco. For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began, guests were able to drink in an indoor bar in March 2020.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

After that, I can’t tell you exactly what happened because I turned off the recorder. There were more beers we cheered on the yellow step. Ziering showed us the bullet holes in the bar from an old gunfight (Shotwell’s is more than 100 years old). He told us about a poetry major in college and a strange breakup he had here, and I told him about a band in high school (why do I always tell people this after I’ve had a few drinks?).

Ziering is a sucker, but you can tell he really loves this bar.

“I really love having a local bar that still has the authenticity of San Francisco,” he says. “When you see $ 18 cocktail bars running through a neighborhood, something loses the authenticity of a local place if you can have a drink and not spend $ 50. … Now that people can gather inside again, this is the place you want to do it. “

Stickers and other items that Shotwell's Saloon owners made to raise funds during the pandemic will go on sale at the San Francisco bar on May 6, 2021.  Guests were able to drink inside a bar for the first time since the bar began COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020.1of5

Stickers and other items shotwell’s saloon owners made to raise funds during the pandemic will go on sale at the bar in San Francisco on May 6, 2021. For the first time since the event began, guests were able to drink an indoor bar for COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Josh Ziering shows off a Shotwell's Saloon hoodie he bought to support the bar during the San Francisco pandemic on May 6, 2021.  Guests were able to drink inside a bar for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March 2020.2of5

Josh Ziering shows off a Shotwell’s Saloon hoodie he bought to support the bar during the San Francisco pandemic on May 6, 2021. Guests were able to drink in an indoor bar for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March 2020.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE3of5

Shots left their mark on the bar at Shotwell's Saloon in San Francisco, which was photographed on May 6, 2021.  For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March 2020, guests were able to drink in an indoor bar.4thof5

Shots left their mark on the bar at Shotwell’s Saloon in San Francisco, which was photographed on May 6, 2021. For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March 2020, guests were able to drink in an indoor bar.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE5of5

Doug and I planned on checking out more bars tonight, but Shotwell’s has something going for it. We just can’t go.

“There’s a lot of gravity here,” says Ziering knowingly.

I haven’t looked at my phone for hours when Madonna stops by our table to let us know that the bar is closing. It’s almost 9 p.m. and Shotwell’s cleared out. Intoxicated with the experience of having lengthy face-to-face conversations with strangers for the first time in over a year, as well as the few drinks I’ve had, it’s time to go home.