One of San Francisco’s oldest gay bars, the Stud, sometimes called “the Stonewall of San Francisco,” faced an uncertain future after rent hikes almost forced the bar out of business earlier this year.
Michael McElhaney who purchased the Stud with business partner and vibrant club presence Ben Fiesta in 1996. (Fiesta died in 2011.) recently found out the building had been put in escrow and sold. The new owners wanted to tripled, the rent to $9500 a month.
“For us as a small cabaret-type club, that is inconceivable. We just can’t do it with the way things are now.” said McElhaney.
McElhaney called on the community to collaborate on saving if not the space then at least the club in a different spot. “The Stud isn’t just a building, it’s a community.” He laid out options that included finding another buyer who could also pay the rent, finding another space and transferring the valuable liquor license, pooling together as “the next generation of queers” to buy the club, and working with the city to find solutions.
Official word arrived Thursday that a co-op that formed to figure out a path forward to save The Stud has succeeded in securing funds to purchase the business from current from McElhaney, with hopes to preserve the club and keep it alive for decades to come. Organizer Mica Sigourney, whose drag name is VivvyAnne ForeverMore, told SFist, “We sent out a call to leaders in nightlife and were overwhelmed by the immediate and enthusiastic response. The co-op for me really is a dream team of creative and brilliant folks. I’m really looking forward to the future of nightlife with this team.”
Supervisor Jane Kim has stepped in with some assistance, and she says in a release, “We can’t underestimate the importance of the Stud to the LGBT community. Not only has The Stud been the site of important artistic and political events, it currently serves one of the anchor business for the future Tenderloin/SOMA LGBT Heritage District.” She adds, “I’m honored to be helping lead the efforts to make sure the Stud is open for another 50 years.”
The next step, says Sigourney, will be to sit down with the new landlords and secure a long-term lease, and the team is hoping that they will be able to leverage the history and legacy of The Stud in that negotiation. “We have the funding, resources and talent to make The Stud a profitable, successful business,” says Sigourney. “We hope the new building owner will give us the chance to sign a market value lease and allow us to keep this historic bar a space where everyone is welcome.”
Also involved are several people with business, operations, and production experience, as well as former David Campos aide Nate Allbee, who helped Campos author the voter-approved Legacy Business Historic Preservation ordinance, which The Stud co-op will be leveraging as well.
Members of the Save Our Stud co-op include DJ and promoter Mark O’Brien, Swagger Like Us founder Kelly Lovemonster, artist and DJ Siobhan Aluvalot, and drag star Honey Mahogany.
Well done. It is so important to save and preserve our disappearing historic LGBT landmarks.