San Francisco Institution Slim’s Closes After Three Decades

Hoobastank Playing Slim
Marcy Guiragossian-Marcy G. Photography)
– Hoobastank Playing Slim

Slim’s, the San Francisco nightclub institution founded by musician Boz Scaggs in 1988, has closed its doors for good. While it had already been closed since city officials declared a “shelter in place” order last week, Scaggs says the decision was made late last year.

“Slim’s had its day,” Scaggs told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Maybe we could have changed things and kept it going, but that’s not our business and never has been. Slim’s did what it was here to do.”
The 460-capacity club’s staff was told March 18 that the club would not reopen but their jobs will move to the Great American Music Hall, which Scaggs also has an investor interest in. The GAMH will reopen and be operated by Scaggs’ group, Big Billy Inc., once the shelter in place order is lifted. Both clubs have been booked by Goldenvoice SF since the retirement of longtime talent buyer Dawn Holliday in 2017.
A year later, Scaggs told Pollstar the clubs were facing competition from newcomers in the market with clubs of the same size.
“We realized we would have to respond by filling [the venues] up with some big shows and moving into new territory. We had a number of years of success and were the only game in town of our size, but other venues came in and there were other things going on around town,” Scaggs said. “In order to respond to our own position, we felt we had to make a decision to … cast the net wider.The Goldenvoice situation [in San Francisco] has also evolved over the last few years, we know and respect them, and we’re in a very attractive place to be.”
Over the years, Slim’s – originally envisioned as a blues roadhouse for Scaggs and other Bay Area musicians to play – hosted artists across genres on their way up, including Sheryl Crow, Beck, Melissa Etheridge, Bruno Mars and No Doubt, according to the Chronicle.
It also provided friendly confines for established stars to play a more intimate setting when in town, including Prince, Pearl Jam, David Bowie, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Patti Smith, and Snoop Dogg.
Holliday told the Chronicle she was always given free rein to book anyone and everyone, across genres and regardless of popularity. 
“All credit to Dawn,” Scaggs told the paper. “She extended our outreach, she and her gal posse at SXSW. She knew everybody, made friends everywhere. She was a powerful force who sustained us all these years.”
Holliday explained, “I could have anybody I wanted onstage. If people came, great. If they didn’t, fine. There would always be another Hothouse Flowers show to pay for another Swamp Dogg show.”
The writing on the wall for Slim’s was already becoming legible but became clear last month when Scaggs reconvened the Solid Senders, the original Slim’s house band, for a memorial for his investment partner, venture capitalist Frank Caufield, who died in December. Another key partner, financier Warren Hellman, died in 2011. All three were also behind the production of the free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, which continues, as well as the Great American Music Hall. 
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has been spun off from Big Billy Inc. and continues under an LLC controlled by the Hellman family.