Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

SF supe, others work to move Gangway

The Gangway bar shortly after it shut down in January. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

The Gangway bar shortly after it shut down in January. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim’s office, LGBT preservationists, and the city’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development announced Thursday that they’re working to move the Gangway bar, the historic gay bar that recently shut down in the Tenderloin district.

The group plans to use the same model that saved the iconic Stud bar from closing last year in the South of Market neighborhood.

“San Francisco is at risk of losing what makes us special,” Kim, whose District 6 includes the Tenderloin, said in a news release. “Our city was the birthplace of the LGBT civil rights movement, and bars like the Gangway played an essential role. We can’t just let the oldest gay bar in the gayest city in America quietly close.”

According to the group working on the move, the Gangway, which was at 841 Larkin Street, first opened as a bar in 1910 and had its first same-sex police raid in 1911. It’s operated openly as a gay bar since 1961.

Longtime Gangway owner Jung Lee sold the bar to Sam Young, who also owns the Kozy Kar bar at 1548 Polk Street, and the Gangway closed for good January 27. Young, whom the Bay Area Reporter hasn’t been able to reach for comment, plans to open Young’s Kung Fu Action Theatre and Laundry at the site, according to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Nate Allbee, the gay preservationist who authored the city’s Legacy Business Registry and founded The Stud Collective, is leading efforts to teach a new Gangway Collective how to develop and operate a new, cooperatively owned Gangway. Kim’s office and city officials will work with the Gangway Collective to find a new Tenderloin location for the bar.

“We won’t be able to keep the Gangway in its exact location but we can hopefully recreate it in the same neighborhood,” said Allbee. “This bar has survived decades of anti-gay bigotry, police raids, and the HIV/AIDS crisis. We can’t just walk away from a business as important as the Gangway – this history is also vital to our future.”

Just after the Gangway closed, former owner Lee told the B.A.R. that Young, the new owner of the bar’s liquor licenses, had contacted him the day the bar closed with “no notice whatsoever” and told him he had to shut down that night. “I was really pissed off,” said Lee. “… All my staff was upset. My customers were upset.”

It appears that Young, who couldn’t be reached for comment, is being more helpful in efforts to save some of the bar’s history, though. He’s “generously offered to gift the Gangway business name and physical ephemera,” including the iconic boat perched over the door, to the new collective, according to the group working to move the bar.

“I grew up in San Francisco and I’m supportive of this history being preserved. I hope it can be successfully reopened in another location someday,” said Young in Thursday’s news release.

Allbee stated that the collective is asking the community for three things: “Investors who want to be part of the Gangway Collective, contractors who can help us work quickly to dismantle the historic interior and exterior elements of the bar, and any leads on storage space and a new space for the bar in the Tenderloin” he stated in Thursday’s news release.

Young has already started paying rent, so a temporary home for items from the bar ahs to be found quickly, the group said.

The city’s workforce development office had worked with Lee to find buyers interested in preserving elements of the bar, and it will support the collective.

Joaquin Torres, the agency’s deputy director, stated that it’s “proud of the support we were able to provide for community members seeking to save the Stud, and we are happy to step in again to support community members as they endeavor to preserve and relocate the Gangway.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, February 8, 2018 @ 2:16 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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