The Storied History of the M&M Tavern


Dorothy Henderson, the amazing Waitress for the M&M Tavern.
Actor Robert Walden who at the time played reporter Joe Rossi from the 1970s-80s television drama Lou Grant. He wanted an idea of what a newspaper bar was like so he interviewed Al McVeigh. 

Once upon a time, newspapers were still printed on paper, people still had three-martini lunches (skip the lunch),  and the M&M Tavern at 5th and Howard was a home away from home. Reporters, factory workers, bookies, cops, and an immortal army of cockroaches could be found at this Irish dive bar.   

In 1934, less than a year after Prohibition ended, Martin McVeigh and Mike Malloy opened the M&M Tavern as its original location near 5th and Mission. When Martin died suddenly just a few years later, his wife, Mary McVeigh, continued on as part-owner. Mary was the Queen Mother of the M&M, renowned for her work ethic and thrift. When given the chance to buyout her partner’s interest, she scraped up enough money for the McVeighs to become full-owners of the bar. Her son, Allen (“Al”), had just returned from World War II and had been working shifts to pay for college. He put his degree on hold and became the owner and operator of the M&M until he retired nearly 40 years later in 1984.  

In 1957, the M&M’s lease was terminated and Al needed to find a new location for the bar. By chance, the Hotel George was up for sale just a block away at 5th and Howard. Al stretched his finances to limit, mortgaging everything to buy the property. However, he had no money to actually furnish and equip the bar. He did what any true-blooded Irishman would do - went to St. Patrick’s Church and prayed. Al left church, picked up a newspaper and saw an ad announcing the sale of all equipment from another bar. His prayers had been answered! With that divine intervention, Al successfully opened their new location.

The offices of the storied San Francisco dailies, The Examiner and The Chronicle, were conveniently located just up the block from the M&M. Naturally, newspaper workers, from senior editors to copywriters, flocked to the bar. According to San Francisco sports columnist Scott Ostler, in a time long before the existence of cell phones, the M&M connected a special phone line directly to the Chronicle’s newsroom so editors could quickly get a report on  breaking news.

Just like the newspapers, Al McVeigh ran the M&M seven days a week, without a single vacation for most of his time as proprietor. He drove in from South City every morning at 5am to open up without fail, despite having just closed the bar at 2am . Once his children were old enough, McVeigh would appear with a bleary-eyed teen son in tow to employ as a dishwasher.

M&M Tavern was one of those rare and beloved spots where regulars sat for an eternity, wreathed in a permanent haze of smoke. Here they would rib each other, nurse their sorrows, listen to Irish tenors sing mournful ballads for lost love, and assiduously avoid their story deadlines. Dice clicked and tumbled down the length of the bar, money changed hands, winners become losers (and vice versa). It was an ebb and flow as reliable as the Bay’s constant tide.

How a bar becomes a favored dive, a haunt, a go-to watering hole, and a local legend is a process that will forever remain shrouded in mystery. It’s some unknown, magical concoction of time, place and people. However, that’s precisely what the M&M was for seven decades. The M&M Tavern’s doors closed forever in 2000. An Irish-themed bar called The Chieftain now operates in its place.

To learn more about the history of M&M Tavern, visit: http://www.mmtavern.com/

Details about the Chieftain can be found here: https://www.thechieftain.com/

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the McVeigh family

Once upon a time, newspapers were still printed on paper, people still had three-martini lunches (skip the lunch),  and the M&M Tavern at 5th and Howard was a home away from home. Reporters, factory workers, bookies, cops, and an immortal army of cockroaches could be found at this Irish dive bar.   


Dorothy Henderson, the amazing Waitress for the M&M Tavern.

In 1934, less than a year after Prohibition ended, Martin McVeigh and Mike Malloy opened the M&M Tavern as its original location near 5th and Mission. When Martin died suddenly just a few years later, his wife, Mary McVeigh, continued on as part-owner. Mary was the Queen Mother of the M&M, renowned for her work ethic and thrift. When given the chance to buyout her partner’s interest, she scraped up enough money for the McVeighs to become full-owners of the bar. Her son, Allen (“Al”), had just returned from World War II and had been working shifts to pay for college. He put his degree on hold and became the owner and operator of the M&M until he retired nearly 40 years later in 1984.  

In 1957, the M&M’s lease was terminated and Al needed to find a new location for the bar. By chance, the Hotel George was up for sale just a block away at 5th and Howard. Al stretched his finances to limit, mortgaging everything to buy the property. However, he had no money to actually furnish and equip the bar. He did what any true-blooded Irishman would do - went to St. Patrick’s Church and prayed. Al left church, picked up a newspaper and saw an ad announcing the sale of all equipment from another bar. His prayers had been answered! With that divine intervention, Al successfully opened their new location.

The offices of the storied San Francisco dailies, The Examiner and The Chronicle, were conveniently located just up the block from the M&M. Naturally, newspaper workers, from senior editors to copywriters, flocked to the bar. According to San Francisco sports columnist Scott Ostler, in a time long before the existence of cell phones, the M&M connected a special phone line directly to the Chronicle’s newsroom so editors could quickly get a report on  breaking news.

Actor Robert Walden who at the time played reporter Joe Rossi from the 1970s-80s television drama Lou Grant. He wanted an idea of what a newspaper bar was like so he interviewed Al McVeigh. 

Just like the newspapers, Al McVeigh ran the M&M seven days a week, without a single vacation for most of his time as proprietor. He drove in from South City every morning at 5am to open up without fail, despite having just closed the bar at 2am . Once his children were old enough, McVeigh would appear with a bleary-eyed teen son in tow to employ as a dishwasher.

M&M Tavern was one of those rare and beloved spots where regulars sat for an eternity, wreathed in a permanent haze of smoke. Here they would rib each other, nurse their sorrows, listen to Irish tenors sing mournful ballads for lost love, and assiduously avoid their story deadlines. Dice clicked and tumbled down the length of the bar, money changed hands, winners become losers (and vice versa). It was an ebb and flow as reliable as the Bay’s constant tide.

How a bar becomes a favored dive, a haunt, a go-to watering hole, and a local legend is a process that will forever remain shrouded in mystery. It’s some unknown, magical concoction of time, place and people. However, that’s precisely what the M&M was for seven decades. The M&M Tavern’s doors closed forever in 2000. An Irish-themed bar called The Chieftain now operates in its place.

To learn more about the history of M&M Tavern, visit: http://www.mmtavern.com/

Details about the Chieftain can be found here: https://www.thechieftain.com/

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the McVeigh family

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