The art of DJ-ing requires a lot of patience, an innate sensitivity that is keenly in tune with a crowd’s temperamental emotions, along with the confidence and ability to recognize what will bring the masses pleasure on the dance floor—even when they themselves don’t know or aren’t quite sure. Put those skills into practice for going on three decades, mix them with an extensive music knowledge, and add in a dash of business intuition and you have Burma-born disc jockey Ben Chu, former nineties rave promoter, current hip-hop and house music DJ and aficionado, and owner of Roe, a San Francisco gem that has taken Chu’s career from underground to upscale.

Roe is an elegant boutique lounge and events venue nestled in the SOMA district, a bustling neighborhood that has become the home of Fog City’s tech companies and artistic communities. This commodious, charming lounge is an exquisite sight, with sleek leather furniture and intimate lighting, a rich atmosphere and undeniable ambiance. Interior design details and exclusive, ever-evolving food and cocktail offerings illuminate the genius behind the versatility that has led to the success of Roe as a cultural meeting point for everyone from young entrepreneurs to seasoned professionals to A-list celebrities.

Established in 2004, the tri-level venue features a main floor, spacious upstairs lounge, and an exclusive downstairs area called The Reserve—a cavernous, recently-renovated space decorated with opulent, plush couches, ambient lighting, and, of course, a full bar. Groups of up to 700 can be accommodated for any type of affair, from corporate events to special soirees including fashion shows, product launches, receptions, and fundraisers, with both banquet and sit-down dining options available.

Formerly a bustling nightclub with parties that raged until the wee hours on the weekends, Roe now places its primary focus on upscale and high-profile, private events, with Chu overseeing full-service planning for an assortment of customers and clientele. Most recently, Roe hosted a release party for the fifth installment of the Tomb Raider action-adventure video game series.


On Tuesdays through Fridays, the post-work happy hour is highlighted by cocktail specials and gratifying, savory bites from a simple yet inventive specialty small plates menu. Roe offers mouthwatering New American cuisine with touches of Southern influence on a diverse menu that is continuously evolving based on the time of year or inspiration of Executive Chef Christopher Butler. He’s the man behind the fun, nextlevel bar snacks sprinkled with local foodie flair. The current menu features a variety of comfort food-inspired eats, including semolina-crusted calamari, buttermilk fried chicken sliders, and shrimp and grits. And for dessert: sweet praline bacon sundaes drizzled in chocolate, anyone?

Innovative Bar and Floor Manager, Erika Johannsen, directs and plans the activities behind the majestic, 40-foot mahogany bar on the main floor across from the richly colored banquettes against the unfinished brick. She is the mastermind that created Roe’s whimsical yet carefully cultivated drink specials menu that showcases deliciously imaginative cocktails she describes as “fresh and familiar with a twist.” She puts her spin on popular cocktail trends by adding her own stylishness with a few unique ingredients to up the ante like Thai chili or intensely flavored syrups. One of her favorite drinks on the menu right now? The Cran BAM, a pretty pink cocktail made with Blue Angel vodka, elderberry liqueur, lime, and cranberry.

There’s always something new bubbling at Roe. With almost a decade of business under its belt, the successful lounge is still finding new ways to stay relevant in a city that watches businesses come and go. Within the next few weeks, the small plates menu will be updated and yet another busy season will welcome in private events and bustling weeknights full of delicious eats, inventive drinks, and great company. Visit Roe at

Text by Kristian Richards