SF Activists Want To Keep Straights From Taking Over Now-Closed Eagle

Of all the things queer activists might interrupt a city council meeting for, protecting a shuttered gay bar seems pretty low on the list. But on Monday, a San Francisco Supervisors Committee was stopped by a group trying to block approval of a liquor license that would enable a new venue to set up shop in the space once occupied by the Eagle, the renowned leather bar that closed in April 2011.

Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos, both of whom are openly gay, joined in the chorus of voices claiming that if a straight venue took  over the SOMA tavern it would be a huge loss to the gay community.

In it’s day, the Eagle was famous for its Sunday afternoon beer busts, which benefited numerous AIDS and LGBT charities. But we can’t see how—logistically or legally—you can insist an empty building somehow “stay gay.”

The supervisors committee decided to table the license hearing until September, and suggested proponents garner more community support if they want a new bar.

Photo: Horizons Foundation

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  • Spike

    Block the liquor license based on the venue being a str8t bar/club rather then gay? WTF? Sounds like reverse discrimination. If the SF gays aren’t willing to support a business then they have no one but themselves to blame.

  • Global Traveler

    There was a bar in Earl’s Court in London named The Colherne (spelling??) that was one of the first leather bars in the city. It is now a very straight chic “gastro pub” (whatever the hell that is) but during it’s transition for a while its clientele consisted of both crowds. So on a Sunday you’d see a family having a buffalo burger next to a table of full on leather daddies and their boys.

    Kind of funny.

    Sad to think that a place like the Eagle in The Castro can’t make it. But that’s the thing about a free market. I just hope that whoever opens up a new business has some strong disinfectants because some messes have been spilled in that place. (some of them by me in my happily misspent youth….heavy sigh….)

  • ron

    It’s sad to see gay bars all across the country closing for lack of business.

  • Pirate

    Not in the Castro, btw. SOMA.

    I think they’d just like to see preference given to another gay establishment, if at all possible. But it’s a bad economy, and having been closed for over a year, there might not be anyone else. I’m guessing ultimately, they want the site to be some kind of SF gay landmark, which isn’t a bad idea. It was iconic of gay SF.

  • Hyhybt

    @ron: It’s good, though, that gay people now have more options than just bars.

  • EdWoody

    Heh-heh. “Weiner.”

  • Shannon1981

    I don’t want straight bars taking over historic gay landmarks, either. I want the Castro to stay gay, as well as all the other gay bars and gayborhoods in the nation.

    However, we certainly have bigger fish to fry. A straight bar in the gayest area in America won’t survive anyway.

  • JimD

    It would be nice if you did a bit of research before you write articles or post blogs. One, as already pointed out, the Eagle was not in the Castro. And two, the Eagle did not go out of business because of a lack of business. If I recall correctly, several scenarios were published at the time of closing. One was that the owner refused to extend the lease; another was that the bar owners refused to accept a 20% rent increase, which may be why the lease was not extended. Speculation at the time was that the property owner was interested in opening his own bar, or was interested in converting the property to condos. I don’t pretend to know what was correct, or incorrect. I’m also not sure whether any of this is relevant in terms of property rights. Bars, and restaurants, lose their leases on a fairly routine basis.

  • Brandon

    Time marches on. Couldn’t they just insist on some sort of plaque to commemorate the Eagle at the location? Also, a documented record for posterity of the history that played out there should be done.

  • jay

    When my partner and I bought in our Chicago neighborhood 25+ years ago, it was full of gay men. Who other than queers (and other non-gay fringe groups) would ever want relatively inexpensive old Victorian houses left behind by the straight white flight to the suburbs? Today unrenovated houses start at over $1MM, property taxes are astronomical, the boys are gone and all that replaced them are wealthy straights with kids – perfectly nice and accepting, but definitely not gay; the gay bars that were along the main drag are now sports bars.

    But isn’t this kinda what we’ve been fighting for? To be accepted by the mainstream also means leaving our neighborhoods and some of our unique identity behind – either they more in and raise the real estate prices, or we move out, fix up some old forgotten area that will eventually raise theirs. Gays *wanting* to live in the suburbs? Seriously? Who would have ever thought that we can get married (domestic partnership in IL), walk down the street and not worry about being bashed, be open at work, and be accepted by most urban straights in such a way that it borders on irrelevance.

    While life is so much better now for LGBTs, who would have predicted that progress would have left us feeling so bland? Might as well just accept the upcoming leather night at TGIFs. Yikes!

  • beerwad

    We don’t want a new bar, we want our Eagle back. It wasn’t just any old gay bar, and if you’ve never been there, you wouldn’t understand why it’s worth fighting for.

  • kostas

    It’s sad that one of the main reasoins that so many of your gay neighbors are gone from 25+ years ago, is that so many in that generation (your generation) have died of AIDS. You are lucky to have survived. Are you in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago?

  • Dan Avery

    @JimD: I’m not sure if your comment was directed at me (the writer) but I neither claimed it was in the Castro nor said why it closed.

  • Nat


    Then raise the funds necessary and either run it yourself or find someone who can. If there’s a market for it to survive with an increased rent, then it will survive. If there’s not, it won’t.

  • jay

    @kostas –

    I’m in Lincoln Park, and believe it or not the majority of gays left not because of illness, but because property taxes became to high to afford for those that owned actual homes. When I moved into my house in the 80’s, the yearly prop taxes were $2000, they’re now pushing $18K per year. Many that rented moved a bit further north (Lakeview) to be closer to the bar scene (no internet hook-ups/dating then) which had all but dried up in this neighborhood in the late 80’s, and to more affordable apartment rents. Most of the queens that owned these beautiful old homes bought in the 60’s for $20K or so, and when I moved here when I was in my mid 20’s… they took to me like white on rice. Ahhhh, the dinner parties! Entertaining on a GRAND scale.

    I imagine that’s what happened in the Castro (including the Eagle), West Village, West Hollywood and lots of other urban areas: victims of their own successes. The government and their taxing policies did more to displace gay pioneers out of their homes and shops than anyone else.

  • Lane103

    I have been to the eagle several times. In the mid 80’s it was a seedy neighborhood in Soma or South of Market. Recently the neighborhood has improved and cost must of gone up.. It was not the most exciting place..I had more fun in other bars…

    As for the Castro, there are still gay bars there and yes the neighborhood is more diverse aka straight, but i still saw plenty of gays…

  • peter

    @Global Traveler:

    The Eagle isn’t in the Castro, it’s in SOMA, home of the Folsom Street Fair.

    Babylon on the Bay isn’t quite the gay mecca it was back in the heady “Tales of the City” seventies. These days it’s stroller wars on Castro & 18th, no longer ‘the gayest four corners on earth’ (that honor probably belongs to 8th & 14th). While this development is sad and symbolizes the end of an era, it is also hopeful. With families more accepting and thriving gay communities in most major cities throughout the heartland, contemporary gays no longer feel compelled to move thousands of miles simply to be themselves. Wasn’t this what gay liberation was all about?

    The San Francisco I loved died in the 90s with the influx of all those damned dot-commers!

  • peter


    Blame Manhunt, GRINDR, etc.

  • JD

    I think there is a definite tension between shall I say “conformist gays” and “radical gays” . The former group is finding less of a need for gay neighborhoods or gay establishments with greater acceptance overall in society, while the latter still see value in a separate gay culture more inclusive to alternative lifestyles and relationships. As a young gay male still trying to figure out my identity, I feel torn between both camps, am I just a guy who happens to like other guys, or am I still trying to fit into some rigid social norms to feel accepted or at least tolerated by most people. I still like having a place like the castro where I can go see gays holding each others hands, or feel free to approach a guy Im interested in getting to know. I’m not sure if I will ever get married or raise children, but I know I will be an older gay man at some point and would appreciate to see a community somewhat still intact.

  • Kenny1948

    Well by now, there probably aren’t many gay bars left south of Market, if any! Just blame it on the yuppie scum who took over San Francisco, and killed her soul!

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