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Ten Things You Should Know About Gay Bars From A Castro Bartender

unnamed-12As a Castro bartender at establishments ranging from Badlands to Blackbird for nearly a decade, Yuri Kagan has seen and heard just about everything. On the eve of the publication of his book, Vodka & LimeLight, Queerty asked the drink maker-turned-author to distill 10 lessons from that experience.

Here are 10 things:

1. Often people move to San Francisco with the assumption it’s this huge gay mecca. They then proceed to act like a kid in a candy store. That is a candy store that serves dick. The truth of the matter is that San Francisco is smaller than Kristen Chenoweth. It’s a small town that looks like a big city. Everyone sort of knows each other and bad reputations spread like Chlamydia.

2. When ordering a drink, don’t ever ask to “make it strong,” or my personal favorite asking for “Strong Island.” It’s basically telling the bartender that you don’t tip and actually want less alcohol. Why not just skip the Long Island and ask the bartender to put their fist down your throat? The results are the same.

3. Dear fag hags. We love you! Without you, I would have never paid for college. I also would have never made it to prom. Please stop asking what it would take for me to fuck you. It won’t happen. You’re powers don’t work on me. Now lets go back to talking about that one episode of Sex and the City.

unnamed-104. Straight women that come out to gay bars because you “just want to dance” and think you’re safe from creeper men? News flash, there are a handful of straight men who are on to you. They are hanging out on gay bar dance floors all over the country waiting to creep you out and maybe get a boob grab.

5. San Francisco’s gay bars are often more segregated than gay bars of other cities I have been to. The gay bars in San Francisco are predominantly male-oriented. The poor lesbian of the city have to often settle looking for parties that cater to them and finding women at animal shelters. Lets stop this non-sense and open some more lesbian bars!

6. Gay men do not know the meaning of the words “too small” unless it comes to a penis then size queens can give a bigger definition. In San Francisco you can see a large man wearing a shirt so small it’s sheer magic that it stays together in the first place.

7. There is nothing wrong with going into a bar by yourself to have a cocktail alone with your thoughts and maybe chase a little tail. Please don’t explain to the bartender why you are out alone cause we don’t care. Have a drink and relax.

8. If you are looking for some party favors while out and looking to rail something, Do not ask the bartender where you can find it. Stand near the bathroom of any bar. Here lie the answers to your queries. As a bartender I am not a drug dealer. We are somewhere between therapist and hired friends to be specific.

9. If you say you don’t care for Kylie or Mariah, keep it to damned self. That stuff starts wars in these parts. Seriously.

10. Friday and Saturday nights are mostly time for newbies and often inexperienced. If you want to see what the Castro is really like, go out in the middle of the week. You will meet more down to earth people.

Check out Yuri Kagan’s Vodka & Limelight on Amazon

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36 Comments

  • Trippy

    And as my first post-college roommate once said, which I will label #11:

    “You met ’em in a bar, you lose ’em in a bar.”

  • deltabadhand

    #2 seems kinda mean for no reason and causes me to wonder “Why would one buy this book”

    This part of #8 “We are somewhere between therapist and hired friends to be specific.” seems to contradict #7’s ‘we don’t care’.

  • Trippy

    Interesting, also, that he doesn’t complain about patrons who who hit on bartenders while they are trying to do their jobs, which can be a major problem according to a bartending friend.

  • dellisonly

    @deltabadhand:
    Says the man who obviously has never tended bar….anywhere

  • petensfo

    My peeve is the gays that bring their fruit-flies along with and don’t coach them a bit before the visit; no screaming, no uninvited touching, no crowns & sashes, etc.

    I get that greater equality means people want to join our party… we’re glad you’re here, but seriously, you will never upstage a drag-queen or a stripper, so stop trying. Just enjoy the company & the dance & stop trying to be the center of attention. IT’S A GAY BAR!

  • NoCagada

    @dellisonly: And…your point is…?

  • NoCagada

    “Dear fag hags. We love you! Without you, I would have never paid for college. I also would have never made it to prom. Please stop asking what it would take for me to fuck you. It won’t happen. You’re powers don’t work on me.”

    Frankly, I find it more offensive when gay men ask me the same thing.

  • NoCagada

    @petensfo: “no screaming, no uninvited touching, no crowns & sashes, etc.”

    But it’s OK for gays to do that?

  • MacAdvisor

    “As a bartender (sic) I am not a drug dealer.”

    Really? When did alcohol stop being a drug?

  • vive

    11) Don’t bother going to bars where the bitchy bartenders think they are better than the patrons just because their other job is “writer.” Which bar does Yuri Kagan work at so that I can avoid it?

  • ggreen

    Castro bars are mostly filled with alcoholics or people running away from something or someone.
    The days of witty Algonquin type banter in a Castro bar were over before they began. 9 out of 10 bars play music so loud you are likely to experience hearing loss if you work in one or go to one regularly.
    The weekend really is a loudmouth’s paradise, scream at your “friends” on the street, scream into your cell phone, and shriek with laughter because it’s a minute later than it was a minute ago.
    The rule is: The more you drink the sexier, better educated and more desirable you become. Bottoms up!

  • sojourners

    This is the most offensive thing I have read today. Yuri Kagan, please keep your opinion to yourself. This is not about “what you should know about gay bars” this is “Hello I am an unknown bartender and I am going to bitch and bash about different types of people who comes in the bar”. This is really disgusting. You are a bartender. You need to deal with your customers and right now it shows that you’re a plastic. If you hate your job then QUIT.

    So good luck with your eBook.

  • James75

    On point. This list could go on and on. As a bartender in the Castro I have a huge list I could add to this but alas you did pretty good for choosing only 10. Also people….this is a light hearted article. If you don’t like the reality perhaps you should stay out of the bar because most likely the bartenders are saying something far worse about you and your order if you are not capable of reading this in jest. Haven’t read the book but am interested in checking it out. Funny stuff. I will be checking it out.

  • Stache99

    @James75: Yeah, I don’t know why people are coming down on the guy either. I can only imagine the stories these guys have to tell. It really does give me a bit more respect for you guys though.

    In West Hollywood are most popular bar is the Abbey where they serve watered down $15 drinks and mostly hot straight bartenders that won’t even bother to look at you.

  • Stache99

    His book should be re titled though. Something like.. “Drunk people do the damnedest things”.

  • James75

    @stache99 yeah, it is very easy to hate on an article like this. I get that for sure but I still think this is pretty on point and I could add to this list for sure. “make me something fruity” “can I get 5 shots, all different…then you make them all and they say, can I get 2 more, oh and we are paying for all these separately.” Not coming to the bar with your money ready and then being too drunk to count it out. Patrons that disappear after they order and then come back demanding their drink in front of other patrons. …..on and on and on. It’s all light hearted and it does not mean your bartenders dislike you…these are just annoying things. Every job has their annoying issues….but everyone should work in the service industry to see what it is like to wait on other people.

  • wpewen

    I was in Castro as a Lad and now I’m a Dad (well, not literally but..) That was 30 years ago. It really is disappointing to see young gay guys going there to drink and tweak. Join an organization, get outside, don’t lose yourself in the shadow life of San Francisco, great as it can be. I got to be there when Herb Caen was writing and there were still real people there-gay SF was a parody of itself by the 80’s, sorry.

  • Stache99

    @wpewen: Back then they did acid and shrooms. Nothings really changed. Every generation says that about the previous. Unusually starting out with..”back in our days….”:)

  • vive

    @wpewen, the center changes. There may still be places to be gay and avant garde, but it is not San Francisco and it is not New York. I strongly suspect you have to leave the U.S. for it. That energy came from a cultural and economic diversity that has been destroyed by gentrification in most of the big U.S. cities.

    Having said that, most gay people have never been avant garde. This is the segment of the gay population that would have been closeted 30 years ago.

  • AxelDC

    Bitter is the most tired gay cliché of them all. If you are tired of being a bartender, go find another profession. We go to bars to forget our troubles, not to hear about yours.

  • Charlie in Charge

    Sometime’s it’s best to engage with an article in the spirit it is given. This one, and I assume the book, are meant to be a fun kvetch. Do you never complain about your jobs? One takeaway I have from lists like this by waiters, baristas, and other people in customer service is that you can learn a tremendous about about the way people are by the way they interact with someone who has to keep smiling and take $#%& from their always-right customers.

  • wpewen

    @Stache99: No,not back in our days. Back in THE days. 78 Parade, Milk, POLITICS not just dick and drugs.

  • wpewen

    @vive: No,SF hasn’t been the center for decades. That was a time before some of you were born. It was a time when the Castro really had working class gay guys. I’m one of the last-came, saw, went.

  • wpewen

    @vive: You’re exactly right-Andrew Sullivan, P.H. Davies-gay “intellectuals” who would have put the likes of me to death to preserve their closet. Know what? Up against the wall, as the Airplane said…

  • TerryR

    @deltabadhand: They don’t contradict at all, I’m retired but bartended at gay nightclubs from the ’80s till 2006. We’re nice to people and listen to their problems if we have time and if they in any way help pay our bills, but except for a small number of regulars we don’t really care.

  • Chris

    @Charlie in Charge: Thanks, most sensible way to respond to this article that I’ve read. It was funny.

    Once though, I’d like to see a list of 15 things I like about XYZ. These (and other gay) places are financially successful for one or more reasons. Maybe we might give them a twirl every once in a while.

    As in: What I like about gay bars is meeting new people (many times from out of town) who actually, while sloshing around in their drinks, have outrageously funny stories to share.

  • Daniel-Reader

    Join a GLBT sports league or a chorus if you want to find better guys. Bars are for alcoholics. People use Grindr, Scruff, etc. to hook up and use Match, Chemistry, etc. to date. It’s a different day and age for gay folks.

  • Alan down in Florida

    @MacAdvisor: Exactly right. 100 boners points, I mean bonus points, for the gentleman.

  • Charlie in Charge

    @Chris: Most heartily agree. Criticism pieces have more share-ability but a “Ten Best Things About SF Gay Bars” would be a faboo idea.

  • Ronbo

    SF reminded me of a cold Tuesday night in a Kansas City gay bar. The only happening was bingo. Stay home rather than go to SF; at least you’ll have dreams of a gay mecca. The place was seriously OVERSOLD!

  • passingthru

    Fun article. I’d definitely go to his bar – even though he doesn’t care. I would call that the perfect bartender! For the guy that says “bars are for alcoholics”, well, he probably doesn’t know how to have fun in a gay bar. Stay home so you won’t spoil everybody else’s fun. Yep – I’ll buy his book too.

  • Toby Ross

    @sojourners:
    I agree, This treats gay people as bar flies whose only salvation is that lone sit at the end of the bar with a long tall glass in front of them to drench their alleged loneliness. This is a good example why gay life and culture are not for everybody. Castro bars are small liqueur infested ghettos with self absorbed jaded queens that are into the me me me me club.

  • jmmartin

    Good piece. Doesn’t discuss bar games, though.

  • deltabadhand

    @dellisonly:
    Well, you rage filled little trill, I tended bar for 6 years while I went to college and grad school… Then and since I treat almost all customers with basic respect and kindness. Its part of the job.

  • Saint Law

    The writer sounds like the kind of bloke I’d like to know. There really is no higher compliment than that.

  • BigGayMe

    I wasn’t going to comment until I saw some of the hateful comments some have chosen to share. I’m guessing, or maybe hoping, that the people who left those comments did not read the intro that Queerty tagged onto this piece.

    “On the eve of the publication of his book, Vodka & LimeLight, Queerty asked the drink maker-turned-author to distill 10 lessons from that experience.”

    I’m more than positive that this dude has a lot on his plate right now and I think he did a hell of a job putting this list together at the last minute, the night before his book comes out. Writing is not easy… at all. There are many MANY drafts that no one but the author ever sees. I am very impressed with his writing and I know this Chicago bartender will also enjoy his book.

    Congrats dude!

    And now some shameless self promotion… If sometime in late 2015 you come across a book titled, “Hoosier Homo – Coming Out in a Cornfield” give a gander or two. It’s about a fourteen year old kid that was outed in small town Indiana in 1987. I guess bartenders have time to write :-)

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