SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Bar owners across San Francisco have been warning that the ongoing shelter-in-place rules are putting them in danger of extinction. The shutdown has now permanently closed a piece of city history.
“Yeah, this is a time for all of us to mourn that weird, smelly, strange building that so many of us found a home in,” said Rachel Ryan, one of the 17 cooperative owners of The Stud.
It was the bar where a community found each other. The Stud opened in 1966, with the past 33 years of that run at 9th and Harrison. It was the city’s longest-standing LGBTQ nightlife venue.
“It’s a deep loss for us,” said co-owner VivvyAnne Forevermore. “We’ve been in this building since 1987. It survived the AIDS epidemic, and now it’s the COVID pandemic that’s forcing us to close.”
Their challenge is shared in bars across the city; mounting costs and no income.
“At this point, due to COVID-19, we just could not continue to accrue debt,” said co-owner Honey Mahogany.
The Stud has long been a staple in the city’s South of Market area for LGBTQ people and has hosted performers like drag queens and DJs, as well as top-name acts like Lady Gaga and Etta James, according to Mahogany.
Mahogany, Forevermore, Rachel Ryan, and 14 other co-owners purchased The Stud from its then-owners back in 2016.
“COVID-19 is currently attacking not just the public health of our city but our culture, our identity,” District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney said during a conference call on the closure. He is promising assistance in finding a new location for the bar. For that, there are currently no plans or options.
Haney added that Mahogany, who is an aide in his office, is currently working on legislation to support the city’s nightlife during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I will do everything in my power as the supervisor that currently represents The Stud to make sure that The Stud returns. We will help The Stud find a forever home,” he said.
“As a gay man, this is personal for me,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. “These are community spaces. These are places where we find our communities. For generations, LGBTQ people have gone to nightlife venues to find their community to understand that they are not alone.”
LGBTQ spaces in San Francisco, like many other small businesses, have long struggled to stay afloat due to the high cost of living and skyrocketing rents. The coronavirus pandemic has only pushed places like The Stud into further despair.
“In San Francisco so many of our nightlife venues have been under pressure for a long time. We’ve lost various venues over the years, whether it was Club Universe that went away or any other various venues that have closed over time,” Wiener said. “But the good thing is that despite HIV, despite the explosion in real estate costs and all the pressures of that, what is amazing are our bars, our clubs that have been able to survive, that are still here.”
Wiener said he’s actively working on legislation to support nightlife venues on a state level.
“This pandemic will end, but we need to make sure that going back to normal doesn’t mean we permanently lose so much of what made us strong and vibrant,” said Wiener. “So we’re working on various pieces of legislation here in Sacramento to try to help the hospitality businesses have more leverage when they renegotiate with their landlords, to lower the commercial rent.”
The threat, of course, spreads beyond the city. Over in Oakland it’s The Stork Club, a dive bar and live music venue that claims a 102-year history. A Facebook posting by the bar says it will not reopen.
That help had better come fast. For The Stud, the shutdown meant no income, while paying $444 in rent every single day.
“Unfortunately, this is the end of an era,” said Mahogany. “And we will no longer be on the corner of 9th and Harrison.”
The Stud is planning to raise money for a move to a new location. That is expected to cost at least $500,000. Bar owners are planing an online drag funeral for the Folsom Street location on May 31st.
“It is the end of an era. The Stud is closing, but you know, we’re drag queens so we’re going to do it in style,” Mahogany said.
The owners are also continuing their Save the Stud Stabilization fundraiser on GoFundMe to raise money. As of 5:50 p.m., Thursday, the fundraiser had raised $3,913 of its $500,000 goal.