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The battle to save San Francisco's queer spaces


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Writing for Vice, Matthew Terrell reports on the battle to save the Stud, a legendary queer bar in San Francisco that recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The celebration was tempered by the sad news that the bar may soon close, after the landlord announced a 300 perfect rent increase. Longtime Stud performers and patrons are banding together to try to buy the bar and run it as a cooperative. If it can be saved, it will be one of the last remaining queer spaces in a city that was once a refuge for freaks and malcontents. Here’s an excerpt from Terrell’s article:

It’s become an all-too-common fate for queer bars in San Francisco, where the past decade of fast and loose Silicon Valley venture capital has created a real estate crisis of unseen scope in urban America. The last five years, in particular, have brought hell for the city’s queer spaces: 2012 brought the shuttering of drag dive Deco Lounge and gay cocktail lounge Club Eight; 2013 saw the demise of “infamous SoMa leather den” Kok; Latino drag mecca Esta Noche closed in 2014; last year, bear bar Truck and lesbian bar the Lexington Club shut down, and this July, gay nightclub Beatbox also shut its doors.

What set the Stud apart from its peers was a decades-long commitment to nurturing cutting-edge music, dance, drag, and style. To preserve that heritage, the Stud’s current crop of resident art-makers has created an advocacy group called Save Our Stud (SOS.) City Commercial Investments, LLC, who purchased the building, has not announced any plans for the property, but SOS dread the possibility of more tech condos in the SoMa tech corridor where the bar sits.

SOS and other figures in queer nightlife are floating the idea of establishing “cooperative bars” in the face of a savage real estate market—bars that are owned by several establishments, promoters, and proprietors, who would each program the space on different nights of any given week. Their cooperative vision extends to co-ownership, as well—all employees of the bar, from drag queens to barbacks, would own a stake. It’s an unconventional idea, but the Stud has always fostered a radical queer community, from bikers and miscreants to working-class drag artists and performers like Janis Joplin and Etta James. That community, likewise, is no stranger to radical thinking.

Image: Drag performer Brigitte Bidet. Via Vice.