Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Eagle Tavern site set for change


Former patrons expressed their sense of loss over the closure of the Eagle Tavern shortly after the South of Market gay bar closed in April. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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The owner of the site of the former Eagle Tavern in San Francisco is working on replacing the famed leather bar with another business.

The fate of the shuttered space, at 398 12th Street, is unclear. However, landlord John Nikitopoulos has filed an application with the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to transfer a license from another business to the former Eagle site.

Nikitopoulos, who signed the paperwork August 17, hasn't responded to the Bay Area Reporter's interview requests.

The Eagle Tavern, well known for Sunday afternoon beer busts that raised money for numerous LGBT organizations over the years, closed in April after a rent dispute between Nikitopoulos and the bar owners.

Many, including members of the Board of Supervisors, have expressed a strong interest in seeing the 12th Street site maintain ties to the LGBT community.

John Gardiner and Joseph Banks, doing business as the Hole in the Wall Saloon Inc., still own the Eagle liquor license and are willing to sell it, but anyone buying the business would have to find a new location.

Nikitopoulos's application to transfer a liquor license from Vimla Inc., doing business as the 16th Street restaurant El Rincon, is pending.

His ABC application, which the agency provided a copy of to the B.A.R., indicates that Nikitopoulos, doing business as Double Rainbow LLC, is willing to pay up to $70,000 for the El Rincon license. Vimalaben C. Yadav and others associated with the restaurant couldn't be reached for comment.

John Carr, a spokesman for the ABC, couldn't say how long it would take for the license transfer to be approved.

Part of the process will be a review by the city's Board of Supervisors, including a stop at the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee. A date doesn't appear to have been set for that hearing.

In April, Supervisor Jane Kim - whose District 6 includes the Eagle space - along with out gay Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos sent the police a letter asking them to closely scrutinize any transfer of the liquor license for the bar.

In an interview this week, Kim said she's not sure what Nikitopoulos's plans are. She said she's tried contacting him, but he hasn't responded.

Kim said she'd "keep an open mind as this comes back to the board and talk to community and neighborhood folks about what they'd like to see in that space ... and how they'd like us to proceed."

She said she isn't planning any forums but there will be a hearing when the license transfer goes before the neighborhood services committee. She said the license issue "is not something we'd legislate, but something we hope would come from the community."

Like others, Wiener said he hasn't heard of anyone formally protesting the transfer application.

In an interview last week, he said he's waiting to see what the proposal for the establishment is, but he expressed disappointment in what's happened so far.

"There was an opportunity to save the Eagle and to have very responsible management come in who would have kept the Eagle alive, and if the owner is now proposing a liquor license transfer that will mean the end of the Eagle, I'm going to be very skeptical of that," Wiener said.

The supervisor was referring to Ron Hennis, the Eagle's former manager, and Lila Thirkield, owner of the lesbian bar the Lexington Club, who at one time were in escrow to buy the bar before Nikitopoulos nixed the deal.

Hennis said this week that after the Eagle closed, he and others had been working on reopening the bar in the same space, but he wouldn't say with whom he'd been working. There's currently "no communication" with Nikitopoulos, he said.

Asked if he would formally protest the license transfer, Hennis said, "Well, I don't know. It's really a hard situation, because you have a person that owns property that has a legal right to have a business on it."

Landlord's complaint

In mid-April, Nikitopoulos filed an unlawful detainer complaint in San Francisco Superior Court claiming that Gardiner and Banks owed almost $18,000 in rent on the bar. Gardiner denied owing Nikitopoulos rent.

Gardiner and Banks have surrendered their liquor license for the Eagle, which expires September 30, to the ABC.

Carr said after the expiration, the license could be reactivated, but not at the 12th Street location.

"They have up to one year after the surrender of their license," Carr said in an email. "There are instances when a license can be re-activated even beyond a year of the date they surrendered the license if the department finds good cause for re-activating the license."

Gardiner wouldn't say how much they're asking for the business, but at one point, they wanted $300,000 for the entire package, which Gardiner said would include the license, the Eagle name, and original artwork from the bar.

"If somebody was serious and wanted to find a place and do this, we would be more than willing to help them out," Gardiner said.

Currently, though, he said, "Everybody wants it, but nobody's very serious about it."

Glendon Hyde, who's also known by his drag persona Anna Conda, had been active in trying to save the Eagle but recently joined the city's Entertainment Commission.

 "Unfortunately, I kind of have to divorce myself," said Hyde.

He still has criticism for Nikitopoulos, however, saying the landlord "obviously" doesn't understand the bar's historical significance, "nor does he seem to care. It's kind of sad."

Gardiner said anyone interested in buying the Eagle's liquor license can reach him at

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