Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 49 / 7 December 2017
 

Detour bar to close Sunday

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

The Detour closes Sunday. Photo: Bill Wilson
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Ending a long and infamous chapter of Castro nightlife, the Detour will close its doors – possibly for good – this Sunday, October 16. While the owners have put up a $10,000 finders fee for anyone who can help them relocate the bar, vacant bar spaces are a rare thing in the city's LGBT neighborhood.

Known for years around the world as a seedy pickup bar, a remodeled (and say some less sleazy) Detour reopened in the fall of 2003 after a protracted legal battle over ownership of the bar and the building it occupies at 2348 Market Street. Former customers never embraced the new Detour, however, and business at the bar languished over the last two years.

Owned by Les Natali, the Castro bar owner fighting charges he discriminated against women and people of color at his other establishment, San Francisco Badlands, the Detour also became swept up in the controversy. While city and state officials investigating the charges did not find problems at the Detour, and the community groups boycotting Badlands never extended their protest to it, the racism charges deterred many people from frequenting any business owned by Natali.

Faced with the ongoing problems, Natali turned over management of the Detour to T.J. Bruce, owner of the Depot bar in Sacramento, and Larry Metzger, co-owner of the Mix bar on 18th Street. While the two tried to improve the bar's business, the Detour still failed to revive its glory days. Natali's lease on the space expires October 31.

Natali, who did not respond to interview requests, said in an e-mail message that he and Bruce are interested in "leasing or buying a place in San Francisco where they can move the Detour name and liquor license."

The bar's days had always been numbered due to the legal battle waged by Natali and Greg Bronstein, owner of the Bar on Castro. The two bar owners' feud over the Detour dates back to November 2001 when former owner Don Minke put the place up for sale. A bidding war erupted between Natali and Bronstein, leading to accusations of a breach of contract and a lawsuit being filed. As they fought over the bar, Bronstein bought the building and the adjacent store space.

When the dust settled, the two men had reached an agreement that allowed Natali to upgrade the bar and operate it till now. Bronstein shelved his original plans to turn the dive bar into a new dance club and patiently waited for the day Natali's lease ran out.

Bronstein has already applied for a liquor license for the space and plans to open what he called "a short term concept" bar later this year while he decides on what to do with the bar.

"An expansion of the space is later down the road," he said. "Some things are worth the wait. I have a long-term vision for improving the upper Market area."






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