The California city of Oakland found out this week that it is to lose two of its best-known LGBTQ venues.
Club 21 and Club BNB adjoin one another. The property they occupy was taken over in 2018 by a real estate developer. The new landlord informed both venues that they will have to close by January 15, 2020.
Club BNB (formerly the Bench and Bar) has been running as an LGBTQ venue since 1978 in different locations, while Club 21 has been running since 2010. They both moved to the current location in 2015.
Both venues are popular with people of color, with different club nights appealing to African Americans and Latinx crowds, such as La Bota Loca and Club Papi at 21
The clubs have been operating on a month-by-month lease for the past few months and have been seeking new homes, but Carlos Uribe, the general manager for both, told KQED that finding anywhere affordable has not yet proved successful.
He says the developer who now owns the block wanted the clubs to start paying $45,000 in rent per month – twice what they currently pay – or move out by mid-January.
“We don’t want to close,” Uribe told the Bay Area Reporter. “We are losing queer spaces left and right, not only in Oakland and San Francisco but around the country.
He says the final day of business will be January 12: “We’re gonna party right to the end.”
Queer venues around the US have faced increased challenges and a spate of closures in recent years. There were an estimated 2,500 gay bars in the US in 1976, but that’s down to around 1,400, according to gay travel guide, Damron.
Meanwhile, in 1973, there were 118 gay bars in San Francisco. Today, less than 30.
Many factors have led to the closures, from the more mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ people decreasing the need for separate spaces; people meeting one another via hook-up apps rather than on the scene, and escalating real-estate prices and rents in former gay neighborhoods.