7 Mile House: Preserving History, Culture and Community in the Bay Area

Vanessa Garcia has always called the Bay Area home and when she became owner of 7 Mile House, a dog-friendly restaurant, bar and live music venue at the intersection of San Francisco, Brisbane and Daly City, it brought the meaning of home for her on a different level.

The story of the restaurant has evolved over decades, an institution on the outskirts of the city with rabble-rousing history. From its roots as a mile house, a brothel, a gambling saloon, 7 Mile House has ridden the tides of change as gracefully as any place could.

Built in 1858, the restaurant was first constructed as a toll gate approximately seven miles from Portsmouth Square. Just like other mile houses established in the mid-19th century where they served as old stagecoach and wheel exchange stops, hotels and shops, 7 Mile House has evolved as the most popular dining and entertainment venue in Brisbane with great Filipino-American fare, drinks and cocktails, sports via satellite and live entertainment six nights a week.

But while it remains a steadfast marker of the Bay Area’s precarious history–from the railroad stations 160 years ago to the evolving landscape of technology and new economies–it also stands as a reminder of unfortunate changes happening in many communities. The rise of rent in many neighborhoods has pushed long-time residents out, while public land and other community resources are being obliterated to make way for luxury apartments and condos.

While change is inevitable, the restaurant makes it a priority to preserve not just the history of the neighborhood but also the richness and diversity of the many communities it seeks to serve.

In 2018, Vanessa self-published and released the book “See You at the 7: Stories from the Bay Area’s Last Original Mile House” which was co-authored and edited by Regina Abuyan. The book is an homage to its history and the many stories of how it came to be everyone’s favorite home in the “middle of nowhere.” With interviews and photographic collections, it is a deeply personal book that celebrates the concepts of home, joy and family.

As a live entertainment venue, 7 Mile House also continues to seek and house local musicians six nights a week. Staying true to its roots, anyone can walk into the venue from Tuesday to Sunday and get lost in a musical reverie of jazz, blues, R&B and many more. With musical greats like Al Molina, Vince Lateano, Dave Bendigkeit and Roy Obiedo, the evenings are always brimming with life at 7 Mile.

And as an homage to the many communities it serves, 7 Mile House also partners with local community organizations and nonprofits to uplift their visions. Whether it’s a local nonprofit fighting for immigration justice, a local church group or an organization dedicated to taking care of our furry friends, there is always room at 7 Mile to give back, reach out and increase awareness on the many issues that we collectively face.

In the midst of all these shifts that are hitting many people and neighborhoods hard, there is hope to be found in places like 7 Mile House. That at the end of the day, what gentrification is destroying are beyond physical and tangible homes and establishments but the historical and cultural significance of communities who have withstood time and many challenges. It becomes a strong imperative then to continue supporting places that have been the cornerstones of culture and community, a necessary and urgent move of preserving what many of us call home.

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