Thirty Years Of The EndUp

topic posted Mon, December 6, 2004 - 3:07 PM by  Unsubscribed
November 11, 2003

The EndUp

And I thought running a night club was full of drama. Wow...I had no idea how much the people at the EndUp have gone through. We are 4 days away from our 2 year mark at and given the amount of drama I have seen in that short amount of time, I can only imagine what the full EndUp story is.

Thirty years of the EndUp
The San Francisco nightlife mainstay sticks around.
By Camper English

THE ENDUP IS to San Francisco what San Francisco is to America: as infamous as it is famous, laid-back yet urban, and crammed full of freaks who like to party. Known worldwide, the club has hosted some of the best DJs. Many of its patrons have been regulars for more than 10 years, and much of the staff has worked there for longer. It has been recognized by the mayor, featured in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, and even inspired a book, I Found God at the EndUp, by Miss Polly.

This small club has also reflected the dramatic alterations of San Francisco. The economic, social, and chemical uppers of the 1970s and dot-com 1990s did wonders for business. The AIDS crisis, the dot-bomb fallout, and neoconservatism have nearly closed the place multiple times.

On Nov. 16, the EndUp will celebrate its 30th anniversary. In the volatile nightlife business, that's quite an accomplishment. Given all its behind-the-scenes melodrama arson, attempted murder, targeting by police, and the tragic deaths of two brother-owners in succession the fact that it remains open and is still run as a family business is nothing short of extraordinary.

Al Hanken opened the EndUp in the fall of 1973 as his second business. He also owned a successful gay bar called the Roundup that closed a year later when it was bought by the city as part of a redevelopment project. The Roundup was in a 22-room hotel with a restaurant downstairs that had briefly featured topless waitresses in a former life. The outdoor area that now holds a waterfall, patio, and wooden deck was just an empty dirt spot without an enclosing fence. The bar served one kind of beer.

Hanken was a hard-partying, constantly swearing risk-taker who lived the swinging-'70s lifestyle to the fullest. "If they don't want to drink Bud, fuck 'em!" his brother Carl Hanken remembers him saying. Al liked to push social boundaries and break as many rules as possible. This never sat well with the police or the fire marshal, whom he blew off whenever he could.

In 1979 a major fire with suspect origins destroyed part of the roof and rendered the hotel rooms unusable. The club was briefly renamed the Hangout that year, but the name just didn't stick.

During the late '70s and early '80s, the club was so popular that the owners had to replace the Saturday Night Fever-style dance floor because the plastic had become opaque with scuff marks. The party was fueled by disco and cocaine, but it nearly ended with the AIDS epidemic. Alison Page, who does promotions and booking for the club, first starting coming as a patron in 1986. "It was the end of the real party time, when people started to get sick." In the early days of the crisis, many people stopped going out. "They were afraid to get sick, if they weren't sick already," Page says.

In order to stay open, the club diversified into other markets and instituted straight nights. There was initially a great deal of tension between the two crowds, but the merger led to some legendary events like Housing Project in the early 1990s.

As the AIDS crisis continued, the EndUp became a place for members of the gay community to gather and support each other, and to celebrate life while they had it. The Sunday T-Dance became known as Church. In 1989, owner Al Hanken also succumbed to the disease.

Al's brother Helmut Hanken then took over the club. Helmut also liked to party and was heavily into cocaine. "The club was his playground. He didn't run it like a for-profit business," Carl says of Helmut. "It became a lightning rod for the general ills of society."

Helmut and the club's general manager, Doug Whitmore, took to selling cocaine in bulk out of the upstairs offices, Carl says. The club got by on successful nights like Girl Spot and Club Uranus, but they neglected to take care of the bills and taxes.

Helmut died after running the club for just four years. He was killed in a suspicious gun accident in 1993 while the club was in great financial distress.

When Carl inherited the club that year, he'd only been there a few dozen times. But he says he saw the dedication of the employees and the patrons and wanted to continue its operation. "My brothers had their hearts in here," he says.

The mess the club was in seemed insurmountable, though, and in 1994 Carl threw a closing party featuring 24 DJs in 24 hours. The club was later granted a last-minute reprieve on some of its financial obligations, and it reopened the next week leaving many patrons believing the party had just been a marketing trick.

Whitmore continued to manage the club while filing for bankruptcy. He also fought Carl's involvement. After Carl realized the full extent of Whitmore's mismanagement, he sorted through the legal processes required to remove Whitmore from the estate (he was the executor of Hemlut's will) and the club. On the night before he was to be removed, Whitmore emptied the club's bank account and fled the city with $160,000 from the family house and the club.

Carl was slowly able to bring the business back under control, but Whitmore wasn't out of the picture yet. He burned through the stolen money in three years and came back for revenge. One day in 1996 he showed up at Carl's house in disguise, hiding behind two large packages. When Carl refused to let him in the house, he brandished a gun and shot Carl after a struggle.

The police later found the packages, filled with rope, duct tape, gasoline, and a bomb. It was clear Whitmore intended to destroy the house, if not also kill Carl and his family. The police tracked down and cornered Whitmore in an all-night standoff in which he killed himself rather than be taken in.

Though Carl recovered from his wounds, his battles weren't over yet. Soon he was fighting the club's neighbors and the police. Beginning in 1995, neighboring businesses rallied together over noise issues, and the club almost lost its permits. Then, in 1999, there was a shooting at the Monday night Club Dread, when a man who was refused entry pushed by the door person and fired a bullet into the club. It hit two people. Carl was told by the police to cancel the night or face being shut down completely.

Other police problems haunted the club. Capt. Dennis Martel of Southern Station was ramping up his crusade against San Francisco nightlife venues in the late '90s he targeted the EndUp and 1015 Folsom in particular. The cops managed to shut down the EndUp for 35 days in 1999. But due in part to Martel's overzealousness, the city's Entertainment Commission was created to make the nightlife permitting process more logical, and Martel was shipped out to the police department's Airport Bureau.

The recession, increasing regulations on clubs and bars, and taxes continue to challenge the EndUp, but the family-owned venue soldiers on. The EndUp is legendary for its great music, serious dancing, and friendly crowd, but given its tumultuous history, it should also be known for its extraordinary tale of survival. Come out to its anniversary celebration and show your appreciation for 30 years of hard work keeping San Francisco groovy.
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