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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