Favorite old San Mateo hangout receives facelift 

When the Prince of Wales Pub closed on Jan. 20, long-time patrons said they feared their favorite hangout was lost.

But when the location reopened three days later as The Swinging Door — the name of the first pub to open at that location in 1955 — a group of pub regulars went to work helping owner Warran Chapman start a new legacy.

"It’s been absolutely phenomenal, I couldn’t believe it," Chapman said. "The next day, the regulars who had been coming for years were in there helping me hang pictures on the walls and get the place cleaned up."

The pub itself has changed its name and face several times since opening as The Swinging Door in 1955. It was renamed the Prince of Wales and sold to former owner Jack Curry 32 years ago. Curry could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

With the help of Bruce Johnson, who has been flipping burgers and frying fish at the pub for almost 23 years, Chapman — father of two young girls who left a corporate job to open the establishment — is keeping the pub atmosphere of the building going downstairs, and has turned the upstairs level into an upscale bar with "dueling pianos."

"I figured the clientele wants me to stay. I’ve been here so long, and Warren could use a helping hand," Johnson said. "And I feel like I’m part of the building."

Brian Boettcher, who has been visiting the pub for the last four years, said the upstairs bar is a great asset to downtown San Mateo, because piano bars are becoming popular across the nation but are still rare. The last one he visited was the long-defunct San Jose Live.

Chapman said he hopes the upstairs and downstairs would help each other attract new customers, and he thinks the expanded wine, beer and food menu will help as well.

With help from Johnson, the staff and their customers, the new publican said both levels of the building should be fully running within the next two weeks, and he has already begun hosting old Prince of Wales musical guests and new piano acts.

"It’s really a labor of love for a lot of these people. It’s an extension for a lot of our living rooms and it would have really been a shame for everyone to scatter and not get to see each other as much," Boettcher said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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