Anthony Schlander of "Anthony Presents" has thrown arguably the best parties in San Francisco for the past 20 years. That is until the coronavirus pandemic stopped everything in 2020. With covid-19 restrictions in place, Anthony maneuvered from the boredom of shelter-in-place to assisting fellow workers within the nightlife industry, to evolving his business model to become successful in the new world. Check out the trailer for Anthony's story on "Surviving the Pandemic" below.
SAN FRANCISCO - Anthony Schlander has built a reputation for throwing the most sought-after parties in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last 20 years.
But when the pandemic hit...the party stopped.
And with a business that thrived on large gatherings, this entrepreneur tried to be optimistic about the then proposed two-week shut down.
“I really thought the lockdown was really going to be short, short, short term,” said Anthony. “I don’t know where that idea came from or that time frame came from but it was definitely confusing, terrifying, upsetting. There were so many different emotions when that news came about.”
After spending the first few weeks in his apartment cooking endless amounts of waffles, watching the entire Harry Potter series, and even reliving his party days through recap videos on YouTube, Anthony needed to do something.
And so Anthony began to reach out to his colleagues in the entertainment industry: bartenders, security guards, hostesses, and more.
With the help of the Bay Area Red Bull team and other brands, Anthony created “Feed the Industry” which was an initiative to provide meals to these workers who thrived off in-person events.
“We were able to feed maybe 600, 700 people in a matter of three months,” said Anthony. “It was very rewarding because at the same time I was actually delivering the food, as well, all over the Bay Area. I was actually meeting up with the industry folks. And you know what’s crazy? Half the people we were able to connect with, I actually didn’t know them.”
And as Summer 2020 approached, the nation saw some progress with the pandemic.
It was an opening Anthony took and made the move to bring his iconic day party Sundaze back at the iconic San Francisco venue The Endup.
But it was met with some resistance.
“That was kind of a special time or not a special time because it was a time because I actually had the industry divided as well,” said Anthony. “Because half of them were upset that I was opening and the other half were excited that I was opening. At that point in time I just wanted to lead the way on how to reopen. It wasn’t about putting people in danger or trying to make a quick dollar. It’s really just, we’ve been in the house for three months talking to ourselves or with your significant other. I put myself in everyone’s shoes. If there's a safe way to come back out, let me try.”
Even after getting approval from the City’s health department and the entertainment commission and putting the word out that “parties” were back, the results were not pleasing.
But even in this loss, Anthony said he was happy to bring some sense of normalcy to people.
“The 30 people that came had the best times of their lives,” said Anthony. “Because at the same time they were stuck at home and had no one to talk to. And those 30 people that I talked to that day were so grateful for the opportunity to be out with their friends.”
As one idea flamed out, there came another.
Spark Social SF is an outdoor food truck park, beer & sangria garden, and event space located in the heart of San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood.
This is where Anthony was able to combine his love for fitness and event planning -- all while covid restrictions allowed activities to function outdoors.
“Outdoor fitness was deemed essential,” said Anthony. “All the coaches that I was working with is out of work right now. I want to work out. I think other people want to work out. We could work out outdoors. Spark Social is 100,000 square feet. You could put 15 people in there. I think I’m on to something.”
On July 17, 2020, Anthony put together the first outdoor group fitness event at Spark Social SF.
The fitness classes quickly grew in popularity that it prompted the opening of a new location of 4,000 sq. feet of turf.
Anthony called this newest venture “Social Fit Club”.
And stemming from the success of Social Fit Club, Anthony’s partnerships with Spark Social SF led him to operate a former street food park he would eventually call “District Six”.
“District 6 is the location of what district we are in San Francisco, which is in the SoMa District, which is historically the Filipino district, which is amazing,” said Anthony. “So that’s where the name came from. And the whole idea of it is it’s created by local guys we’re going to work with the local guys as well.”
Anthony opened District Six based upon careful consideration of the wants and needs of the community.
“We have a barbershop here,” said Anthony. “We have food here. We have live music here. We have a beer and wine garden here. There’s something for kids. There’s something for adults. There’s something for in between. There’s something for couples. There’s something for singles. But that was the whole idea, too, to be part of the community. To not just do for-profit events. Let’s work with non-profits. Let’s work with the surrounding non-profits and community leaders in San Francisco. And we’ve been able to do that.”
One of Anthony's first big events at District Six was in November 2020.
It was a free family workshop in creating Filipino Christmas colorful star lanterns, called parols.
Back in then Seeing his new business model in motion, Anthony felt it was time to evolve and close the door on his past career of nightlife events.
“I think for me to progress and take those steps forward I need to leave what I used to do behind and take a few steps forward, '' said Anthony. “And this is really what I really want to do. I really want to do community events. I really want to do heritage events. I really want to include families.”
With a brand new venue and clientele, Anthony was back in business by 2021.
And even though he mentioned how his party planning days may be over he decided to merge the concept of arguably the most popular day party in the Bay Area, Sundaze, with his new business District Six.
“We turned Sundaze Day Party into Sundaze Brunch and Marketplace. And so with the brunch aspect, it was bringing people together through food. The marketplace was also an idea to help local businesses and local entrepreneurs with products and services have a place to sell their products and services. We provided another platform for aspiring entrepreneurs or people with storefronts who couldn't open up anymore so that was a whole evolution.”
With families, friends, foodies, and everyone in between visiting District Six, Anthony knew he had to do something for the music lovers.
With a network of beloved artists he developed partnerships through the years, Anthony brought the party back to the City.
“Music is very powerful,” said Anthony. “Music does heal and especially when you get to see your favorite artists whether it’s Mya that was here. Bow Wow was here and Bow Wow has been such a great host in the Bay Area. Hosts like Jon B was here. One of our biggest shows was with Bryson Tiller. He brought them out. It was such a great show. We had Goaple come by. There’s been a mixture of different types of talent coming and we actually have a ton more coming.”
And just like Michael Jordan and Jay-Z, Anthony came out of retirement and is not only hosting parties again but adding a more inclusive experience through food and services.
“I was done with nightlife specifically at the time because I needed to do this,” said Anthony. “I needed to step into my new challenge which was 20,000 square feet of creative space.”
While business is back, Anthony is reminded that it was never about the money, but the experience that keeps him going.
And now with this space and renewed motivation, Anthony is trying to lift more people up along the way.
“It's in our mission statement if you are working for me for me next to me whatever it is we need to implement the community at least once a month and donate our time and volunteer our space,” said Anthony.
Looking back to the March 2020 shelter-in-place order of cooking waffle after waffle, to reminiscing the past in his living room, to running and operating an outdoor venue dedicated to the community, Anthony is here to stay.
“Expressing my creative energy through events is what I’ve been doing for 20 years now and the future looks bright,” said Anthony. “I want to open more spaces. I want to get into more community. I want to make more impact. I want to help the city of San Francisco, whether it attracts more tourism, have dope events, work with other entrepreneurs and other small businesses, and just continue to support community here in San Francisco.”
Words By: Rommel Conclara of TFC/ABS-CBN News