It was a wet Thursday evening, and Douglas Kinsey was standing under arches lined by flashing lights and a freshly painted logo bearing the name The Night Light that would open in less than 24 hours near Jack London Square. Thursday night was a trial run, and inside, his business partner, J. Edward Nackley II, who introduced himself simply as Johnny the bartender, was preparing from behind the bar.
"Here is something I made real lickety-split to impress our friends," Nackley said, looking like Teddy Roosevelt on a big game hunt and sounding like a carnival barker. "Of course, we can make you whatever you want, provided we have the ingredients. And if we don't ... " he continued.
Few traces remain of the rundown bar at 311 Broadway that The Night Light has replaced. The sign bearing the original name Clancy's is gone, as is the banner that announced the bar's more recent and very brief identity as Sweet Jimmie's.
That incarnation closed after the April 25, 2011, shooting rampage there, which left two people dead and five others wounded. By coincidence, a judge decided Wednesday that the man accused of the shootings must face trial before a jury.
"We can turn that karma around," Kinsey said Thursday, opening the heavy double doors onto a room transformed
"The idea is to make the imbiber feel like it's a bar that's been around anywhere from 60 to 100 years," Kinsey said, adding, "Is imbiber a real word?"
The cocktails are "new takes on old classics," he said. The Lambretta is based on the James Bond Vesper martini, with Death's Door gin, Ketel One Citroen vodka, Lillet Blanc and Fee Brothers' orange bitters. There is the Old Smokey (single malt scotch, maple and Angostura bitters) "served up."
"Are you guys open?" said a man who wandered in shortly before 7 p.m.
"Sure", Kinsey said. "It's a soft opening. Tomorrow's the big night."
The man took a seat on one of the extra wide and plush barstools. No falling off those seats, I thought, as I ran my hand under the bar.
"There are hooks," Kinsey said, guessing at the reason for my groping. "We don't miss a beat."
He was especially proud of the two small doors above the end of the bar nearest the door. They look like they came from a speak-easy but actually were saved from a demolished brick oven in a Piedmont home.
The doors conceal not illicit drinking but rather a TV for special occasions -- Occupy Oakland protest coverage or Raiders playoff games. "We can't deny them that," Kinsey said, referring to the football games. Both men have been leathered by years of bartending at Radio and the Ruby Room in Oakland. The Night Light's clientele and cocktail menu Thursday reflected a hipster 30-something sensibility that has shown up at Bar 355, Vitus and Disco Volante, which also share roots with Radio and Ruby Room.
Vitus, just a block away, will deliver food upon request. Nation's Giant Hamburgers is next door to the east, and Souley Vegan is a few storefronts down to the west.
Nackley and Kinsey are still working on a private music club upstairs that they want to turn into a Gilman Street for adults. Members will have to pay a $2 lifetime membership fee and abide by rules such as no cellphones and no grabbing of the hinter parts.
You can get information by calling 510-282-1413 or going to www.facebook.com/TheNightLightClub.