The Swingin’ Door was a Hang-out for noteworthy folk in San Mateo

Patch Readers’ Choice 2012 – Best Place for a Cocktail in San Mateo

  • Built in the 1940’s, the Kehoe building was converted by the Fey Brothers (whose grandfather invented the slot machine) to a bar in December 1955. Named The Swinging Door, there were two swinging doors at the entrance. The price for a 12oz mug of beer was ¢20.
  • Early 1956 saw World War Two pinup girl Betty Grable and bandleader Harry James frequent the bar. They had horses running at Bay Meadows at the time.
  • The upstairs dance floor was installed in 1956 to accommodate a dance school, which lasted for several years.
  • A young and struggling group name The Kingston Trio played upstairs in 1957.
  • The usual tranquility of the bar room was momentarily disturbed when a tear gas bomb was lobbed into the bar in 1958.
  • Famous jockey Willie Shoemaker dropped in during the 1958 racing season.
  • A seat belt was installed on the pillar near the bar for those who wanted to “buckle-up” before driving.
  • Hugh Courtney hung the first bristle dartboard in the bar in 1963 and the following year the first All-Star match was played here between San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles Area dart teams.
  • A Go-Go dancer did her thing in 1964 while patrons talked about Carol Doda, The Beatles and Vietnam.
  • Later in 1964, actor Ronald Reagan bought the bar a round in his hunt for political office.
  • Long time regular, Ash While treated newly elected Congressman Pete McClosky to a drink after the 1964 elections.
  • The present Bird of Paradise “tree” was planted by Len Titus in 1966, when it was 18” tall. Now it is the tallest in Northern California.
  • All through these years the bar underwent many changes and many owners. Always beer bars, beer drinkers of repute (Carl, Joe, Wolf, Auggie, Mike, etc.) have been familiar faces on both sides of the taps. Keeping the action hot in dartboards has been darters (Hugh, Ralph, Trevor, Al, Terry, Walt, Parker, Phil, Dereck, Brian, etc.) of great and not so great repute.
  • Around 1969 an irate person delivered a gunshot from the street through the front door and into the end of the bar – fortunately the bar was closed at the time.
  • Shut down for several months, the bar was reopened in 1971 by Ken Gilley as The Prince of Wales with the present British décor.
  • Popping in and out through 1970-73 was the famous crooner, Bing Crosby, as he would quietly sip a beer at the kitchen end of the bar. During this time the fantastic Windsor Burger and delicious Fish & Chips were starting to gain local fame.
  • In November 2006, Warren Chapman purchased the British Pub and brought back the original name “The Swingin’ Door”. Warren was born in Manchester, England and comes from a deep heritage of British heroes. Warren’s grandfather, William Chapman of the 70th Battery RFA, was given the Battle of Mons metal. His great uncle, PTE John Chapman, was 11th Hussars. Warren’s father, Raymond Chapman was a Grenadier Guard, hence the two guardsmen guarding the outside of the pub.

Winner of Reader’s Choice awards for “Best Fish and Chips,” “Best Watering Hole,” and “San Mateo’s Hottest Sports Bar for Entertainment”