Letter to Editor: Gene’s Bar in San Francisco

South San Francisco, CA  April 8, 2021  by Deborah McGrath

There was a questioned posted from someone in Italy asking about Gene’s Bar in San Francisco, and I’m a year late but here is some information:


Gene’s formerly 5160 Mission Street, near Geneva, Outer Mission/Crocker Amazon


I grew up in the Excelsior District. My brothers and sister and I went to grammar school with all of the Balma kids at the now-defunct Corpus Christi Grammar School.


Their dad, Gene Balma, ran the only bar I remember seeing my mother frequent regularly. Was Mom fond of the booze? Quite the contrary. Mrs. Cruz was as close to being a teetotaler as you would ever meet. But she went to Gene’s almost every week.


For one reason: Gene made The. Best. Roast. Beef. Sandwich. Ever.


Seriously. We would park in the lot behind the Bank of America, use the back entrance of the bar, and Mom would have us sit patiently, among the incredible collection of figural liquor bottles that Gene had displayed, while he would cut fresh Sourdough hard rolls, dip them in his secret ingredient au jus, and pile on the thinly-shaved beef. Wrapped in wax paper, we almost couldn’t wait to get them home!


Miss you, Mr. Balma! And those sandwiches…


The good news? None. It’s currently the office for a Pentecostal church.


Gene’s Bar was located at 5160 Mission Street and is currently serving as a religious office, per google maps 2017



The Cruz family would park in this BofA parking lot and use the back entrance to Gene’s Bar on the right in this google map.
Google –



The initial letter sent to ESC regarding Gene’s Bar a year ago {Wed, Apr 1, 2020} below.

If anyone has info on Bill Paul aka William Wayne Paul, please let us know.


Dear Sirs ,
How are you doing? Hope all is ok with you.
My name’s Antonio and I write you from a city in the north of Italy. Nice to meet you. 
Please forgive me for my American language. 
I’m searching info for a future project about educator , martial artist and an important activist Bill Paul aka William Wayne Paul.
Mr Bill was born in 1939 and died in 1989 . He was in the US judo team in 1964 and was a famous activist too. He was a bouncer in Gene‘s bar in Excelsior District too.
I’m not a journalist and don’t have ulterior motives. I’m collecting stuff about him because his story is teaching a lot to me and who knows one day , improving my American language and my Bay Area knowledge , I’ll write something about him. He deserves a lot and many of his ideas are really modern now.
I would be very happy if you can help me in some ways or suggesting me some ways to find info.  Probably you know some old San Francisco residents who knew him.
Hope you can help me.
Sorry for my disturb again.
Thanks a lot.
Antonio from Italy



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Stan Osborne
Stan Osborne
1 year ago

judo I was a student of Sensei Bill Paul from 1973-1976 while a student at SFSU. In the summer of 1976 I attended a party at his home. He was already teaching de-escalation techniques in his Judo classes.

Antonio Corvino
Antonio Corvino
1 year ago
Reply to  Stan Osborne

Dear Stan, How are you doing? Hope all is ok with you. I woulkd be very happy to know more about Sensei. I’m Antonio the guy who sent the letter. Please write me via email. My email is jkd74@hotmail.com, Thanks a lot Stan. Antonio

Antonio Corvino
Antonio Corvino
1 year ago
Reply to  Stan Osborne

ciao stan how are you doing? i’m the writer of the letter about Sensei Bill Paul. I would like to know more about Sensei . Please contact me via email jkd74@hotmail.com. ok? Ciao

Brett Thomas
Brett Thomas
1 year ago
Reply to  Stan Osborne

I was a student of his in various martial arts, life, philosophy. It all started in fall 1986 at City College SF. he always reminded me of Spencer Tracy as Father Flannigan in the move “Boys Town” (MGM 1939). He was and is one of my biggest inspriations in life. He is sorely missed.