Redemption? Go holy nights."(CITED FROM: DAILY CANDY, MAY 23, 2007)
It's true that San Francisco is overflowing with an eclectic mixture of souls dancing to their own beat and lifestyle, all moving through the shadows of their every day life. It's a pattern of human nature and one that has perpetuated itself endlessly from generation to generation. Through this timeless ebb and flow of existence, there is the constant need to escape from the monotony of the daily grind. Escape usually via the form of self-induced pleasure seeking and voyeurism, is how the soul rests and waters itself while in transit between mandatory living.Traditionally humans have found liberation through nightly activities such as: dancing, partying, enjoying music, storytelling, satisfying carnal/physical desires, placating hungers and thirsts via any forms of intoxicating substances. Historically, the French were particularly adept at creating nightly deviations and pleasure-seeking activities to satisfy their passionate natures.
KING LOUIS XIV
"Back in the late 1800's, this area was filled with brothels, and back alleys were named for the famous madams," says statuesque bar manager Eliana Freeman. Harlot's sexy decor reflects the neighbourhood's lusty past-tastefully-with Victorian-Gothic aesthetic: exposed-brick walls set with subtly suggestive paintings of nudes. And, as if the interior doesn't pay enough homage to the dark past of SoMa's madams (who, legend says, included one called Minna, whose name the alley-way took), bartenders here are outfitted in black corsets adorned with a scarlet"H" Scandalous. " (Cited from:"Ladies of the Night" Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman 7x7 San Francisco Guide Fall 2007) With such potential for Scandal, it's ONLY fitting that the parties and vibe at Harlot be off-the-hook. The ambiance is thick at Harlot and it immediately evoked a brothel, underground feeling when we were standing in line after having parked in a lot located in the same alley! (big plus).
The facility has created a truly interesting smoking space where patrons go into a room that is rather like a terrace with a massive iron gate very reminiscent of "Traitor's Gate" at the Tower of London, in front of it. There are tables and chairs inside of it. The major draw back to the design is that the guests waiting in line have to be subjected to the smoke that pours out of the space and on to the street. Perhaps it lends to the atmosphere of the establishment. Harlot does not possess a swanky facade, but rather an understated front very similar to the club Slide...which also resonates with the Speakeasy/Prohibition essence. In many ways there is an unearthly feel to the place as there is a bizarre mixture of people and spirits lining the street.
Exterior of Harlot SF
In some corners you see homeless laying strewn on the ground sleeping and then rolling in front of the club are Porsche's with beautiful, long-legged twenty-somethings emerging into the forbidden space. To be honest, it was very cold while waiting in line and in hindsight, I now believe that our line was filled with not only eager club dwellers, but also burdened spirits trapped forever in the unknown stories that unfolded in this socially charged part of SoMa. Contrary to the club promotion that dress code is in place, the door folk didn't appear to do much to reinforce the policy. This concerned me about what kind of establishment was going to exist on the inside.
Suspended above the booth and uplit with some VERY effective LED lighting, was the image of a naked woman in a Christ-like stance, covered in foliage of somesort...might be fungi. The whole image is gothic-emo in feel but one immediately assumes SHE is the Harlot. Might it be the famous madam Minna, who was alleged to have worked that alley? It's possible....the painting definitely emanates a darkness into the space.
This in conjunction with the opulent looking cowhide and other leather textured Louis XIV furniture, the black walls, heavy curtained windows, red hanging lamps of the red light districts, the massive deer antler chandeliers, Renaissance paintings of debauchery on the ceilings, all gel together to create the feeling of being in an old french chateau at a late night riske party of the debutantes! There is another wonderful painting of two French maids of the Louis XIV court, depicted with their backs to the viewer displaying their scandal to the world. If ANYTHING this club deserves credit for the rich authenticity that it maintains to it's heritage. It's not a space built to accommodate mass volumes of club-goers and I think the establishment whores itself by overwhelming the space for the sake of the gross income at the end of the night. LP stated, "This is more overcrowded than a California prison!" Yet, maybe that's the point. The namesake is Harlot and the history of the space is based upon human corruption, so why should the owners attempt to honorable now!? If you do choose to enter the Harlot ;-), I would HIGHLY recommend a table in the VIP area just for comfort sake. Even then there is a time limit to each bottle purchased. The longer you want to say, the more alcohol you have to purchase. We also discovered that as patrons become more and more inebriated, the furniture located at the edge of the dance space is rather dangerous in terms of people tripping and falling over it.
On a positive note for this night, we did have the opportunity to catch DJ Guzie live dropping his insane beats to a frenzied crowd. DJ Solarz made a surprise guest appearance, so it was a rare treat for the Buzz to get to see the Rock-it!Scientists together on a gig. This lady of the night, this Harlot... is one TO BE reckoned with and she is no light weight club. She is rather gypsy-like in her allure and it's impossible NOT to be affected by her ambiance. If you are in San Francisco for an extended stay and you are up for some clubbing with the seductive supernatural creatures of the night, then Harlot is your lady of the evening!
46 Minna Street
San Francisco, CA, 94105