Long gone are the $1 Thursday night well drinks, but the new iteration of 349 S. First St. offers a welcome boost to San Jose’s SoFA district.

Festival impresario Fil Maresca, who produces the SoFA Street Fair and other well known events, tells Metro that The Continental Bar, Lounge and Patio is yet another sign of SoFA’s resurgence. In the district’s earliest days, Maresca founded F/X The Club, which once occupied the theater on the corner of S. First and San Salvador streets.

The Continental is the newest venture of Sam Ramirez, owner of The Cardiff Lounge and El Guapo’s in Campbell. It’s so new that last week it hosted Maresca’s annual F/X The Club Black Friday party, which featured four DJs spinning ’90s alternative and house music, as part of a “sneak preview.” The official opening is Wednesday, Dec. 10.

“I’m really excited,” Maresca says, noting the successful launch of Cafe Stritch, the soon-to-be-completed South First Market and the enthusiasm for the rejuvenated SoFA Street Fair. “It’s becoming more of a community again. There’s a lot more people in the neighborhood who care about what’s happening.”

Ramirez certainly falls into the category of people who care about the district, and the opening of The Continental represents a return to his roots. Born and raised in San Jose, Ramirez learned the ins and outs of the nightlife business working for Maresca at F/X, throwing parties at the Cactus Club and working at the Agenda Lounge. After cutting his teeth in the SoFA district, he opened Cardiff.

“I feel like I’m coming back home,” he says.

Ramirez has transformed the inside of what was once Brix and Hunters, and before that a pasta restaurant, Sal & Luigi’s. He went for a rustic look, using reclaimed wood, salvaged metal and exposed cement floors. The Continental will feature DJs spinning electronic music, including acid jazz and rare groove beats, much like the Cardiff’s programming. Ramirez also plans to occasionally host live music.

Leather couches, arm chairs and a back patio area will give the spot a “lounge feel,” Ramirez says, while the bar menu will no longer be restricted to the stuff of bottom-shelf binging, but focus instead on craft cocktails.

Ramirez says he plans to stock mostly high quality and small-batch spirits, micro-brew and craft beers, and fine wine—with a few exceptions: “I might do a Coors Light, or something like that,” he says.

Overall, The Continental wants to offer a more refined but not stuffy atmosphere, where young people can “come in, enjoy their time, have conversations and enjoy great cocktails.”

The Continental
349 S. 1st St., San Jose, CA 95113