Eagle, EndUp bars for sale
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Two nightspots in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood that are popular with LGBTs are up for sale. However, owners of both the Eagle Tavern and the EndUp say they want to keep them connected with the gay community.
Joe Banks, who along with John Gardiner has owned the Eagle Tavern, located at 398 12th Street, for more than 12 years, explained why the men want to sell the bar.
"We put a lot of energy into the Eagle and it's time for somebody with more energy to come along with fresh energy," said Banks.
Gardiner also said they're selling the Eagle because they want to concentrate on the Hole in the Wall Saloon, another South of Market bar they own. He declined to say how much they're asking for the Eagle.
The Eagle Tavern's been around for almost 30 years, and is popular largely for its Sunday afternoon beer benefits. The bar, where motorcycle parts are used as decoration, has a rustic roadhouse feel. Except most roadhouses probably don't have a collection of underwear and jockstraps hanging from the ceiling.
There's been concern in recent years that pieces of LGBT history in SOMA are being lost to development.
Gardiner said he and Banks want to keep the bar in the gay community. Banks said if they don't manage to sell the Eagle, they're not going to close it.
But the men also acknowledge the troubled economy.
Gardiner said, "This year has been not so great," business-wise.
"We're trying really hard to keep it gay and keep it functioning," said Banks.
The men have not formally listed the bar, but Gardiner said there has been interest in buying it.
Banks said that since he and Gardiner purchased the bar, they've tried to have the bartenders be "more accepting."
"The old Eagle was more exclusive and we're not exclusive. We're not an exclusive type of bar," said Banks. "We pretty much like everybody as long as they get along."
The work appears to be paying off, at least for one Eagle customer.
David Naden was among the small clusters of people outside in the bar's patio area on a recent Friday night.
Naden, who is gay and moved to San Francisco from Boston a couple weeks ago, said the San Francisco Eagle is "leaps and bounds" better than Boston's Eagle.
"We don't see anything like this out there," said Naden, 23. "It was this sort of scene that was part of the impetus for my move."
"There are more people, and here there's much more variety," he said. For example, "I see women here, and if you walked into the Eagle in Boston, you'd be hard pressed to find any."
The club, located at 401 Sixth Street, was listed Thursday, January 14 for $1.8 million.
"Considering the economy, the business is really good," said Leung, the club's majority owner.
Leung said he wants to see "someone who's as dedicated as I am to uphold the history of the EndUp," which he describes as "the premiere house music club in the world." The club's name befits its purpose. Many people go after 2 a.m., when other venues have closed.
"If the right buyer doesn't come along, we're not going to sell it," said Leung.
He said he's "looking for the right buyer, the right person who will keep the EndUp tradition moving forward for hopefully the next 40 years."
Though any new buyer may want to uphold the club's tradition of fun, they might not want other elements from the EndUp's fairly sordid past.
After the club opened in 1973, it quickly became a popular gay hangout known for bringing in international DJ talent and marathon days-long parties during big holiday weekends.
However, the EndUp also saw its fair share of mayhem, drug busts, an arson fire that gutted the upstairs hotel rooms, and repeated rumors of its demise.
Despite the club's checkered past, Leung said whoever buys the EndUp "would be wise" to keep the name. "It has become the lexicon for clubgoers from the community around the world. There's no reason to change it,Ó he said.
Lee Julien, the real estate broker working on the EndUp sale, said last week they already have one nondisclosure agreement, a document disclosing some preliminary financial information, with someone.
Early on a recent Sunday night, about a dozen people were already starting their evening on the club's dance floor, which, like almost everything else in the club, is pitch black.
It was hard to find anyone interested in talking to a reporter.
One man standing in the club's patio, who declined to give his name, said he used to come to the EndUp a lot in the late 1990s. He said he still has fun there, but now he only comes about three times a year.
"I'm too old, for one thing," he said. "... I don't have the energy."