SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Like other cultural facets of San Francisco’s lifestyle, high rents have had a huge impact on the city’s once lively LGBT bar scene.
Some bars survived and flourished, but many others have had to close.
“I think this bar is really making its way up by having a loyal, regular customer base,” said Dave Harmon as he sat at the Lone Star Saloon.
But even a strong customer base is not enough to offset the rising rents caused by gentrification.
“The prices for the people are going down,” said Honey Mahogany, co-owner of The Stud Collective. “And I think it takes away some of the uniqueness of the city… I think we’ve seen a lot of queer and LGBT businesses around San Francisco for a long time. It is part of the gentrification problem that we are seeing. “
One of the victims of the trend is the once popular The Gangway. It was a treasure in the community from the 1960s until it closed last year.
“Rents were rising,” said Marke Bieschke, co-owner of The Stud. “San Francisco experienced Web 1.0, which was our first kind of encounter with people who suddenly couldn’t afford to open their own places where gays could meet and queer people could gather. “
Bieschke and Mahogany admit their fight to keep the stud’s doors open. It’s been a popular spot in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood since 1966.
In 2016, Bieschke, Mahogany were part of a group of drag queens, performers, bartenders, and LGBT leaders who formed a collective to buy The Stud and keep it open.
Just before the collective became active, the rent had tripled and the future of the bar seemed bleak.
“I’ve always loved the quirk of this town, and watching places like the Lexington Club nearby lit a fire below me and my friends to take action,” said Rachel Ryan, who is a member of The Stud’s collective property.
Charlie Evans and his business partner carried out a similar Lone Star rescue about 2 1/2 years ago.
“This bar is 30 years old and was founded in 1989. This year marks its 30th anniversary. If you can make the first 15 we wish you the best of luck, and by the time you turn 30 there’s some solidarity you’ve got with your community, ”said Evan.
The bar scene is also losing visitors because they no longer have a high income due to the high cost of housing in San Francisco.
“I think very good things are still happening and the venues that survive are good, but I think everyone is having this fight in San Francisco right now,” said Steve Piasecki. “It doesn’t really matter if the bar is open. If you spend your money on rent, can you afford to go out?”