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Mansion that once housed gay bar up for sale

by Sari Staver

A portrait of a lion graces the mansion that once housed the Lion Pub, an iconic gay bar in Pacific Heights. Photo: Courtesy Paragon Real Estate Group
A portrait of a lion graces the mansion that once housed the Lion Pub, an iconic gay bar in Pacific Heights. Photo: Courtesy Paragon Real Estate Group  

The San Francisco mansion that once housed the iconic gay bar Lion Pub is for sale - again.

The stately four-bedroom Victorian mansion at 2060 Divisadero Street in Pacific Heights can be had for $5,995,000, according to the listing from Paragon Real Estate Group.

The bar, which opened in 1968, morphed and changed over the years, from a gay fern bar in the 1970s to a straight bar that catered to a wide range of lifestyles.

The bar, which closed in 2016 after the death of owner Kelly Ellis, became the offices for architect Tim Murphy, who bought the home for $3.4 million. After making extensive renovations, Murphy put the house up for sale last month. The space that was the bar has been rezoned as office space, said Realtor Ron Abta of Paragon Real Estate.

For 48 years, the ground level of the property hosted the Lion Pub, which was known for its racy artwork and semi-tropical theme. Historically, the building featured three units: a bar on the lower level, an in-law suite used for storage, and a home above the bar.

"We hope it will sell quickly," Abta told the Bay Area Reporter in a telephone interview. "The property has a real presence."

According to the listing, the home features four original fireplaces that were salvaged during the renovation, which included a rebuilt foundation. An array of high-end appliances outfits the kitchen, which opens to a mahogany deck.

Four bedrooms, including a master suite, are on the upper level. The lower level has an au pair suite with a bath and kitchenette, which are adjacent to the office.

In a 1989 interview with the B.A.R., Ellis said, "The Lion has gone through a lot of changes since its opening 20 years ago. We've gone from preppy bar to a dance bar to a hippie bar to leather and back to preppy."

The bar was known for its racy illustrated advertisements, which the B.A.R. article determined were done by late local artist Richard Roesener, who used the pseudonym Dale Hall.

Pacific Heights was once known for its active gay nightlife, according to a 2015 article in the B.A.R. (

In addition to the Lion Pub, there were two other bars, the Alta Plaza (2301 Fillmore) and J.J.'s Piano Bar (2225 Fillmore). Also, in the nearby Western Addition was the Alamo Square Saloon (600 Fillmore) that was housed in Hotel Casa Loma (610 Fillmore), which for a time advertised itself as a gay hotel in the B.A.R.

According to the 2015 B.A.R. story, "the decline of the gayborhood in Pacific Heights and environs was remarkably swift," with the Alamo Square Saloon closing in 1991 and the Alta Plaza changing hands in 1999.

The last of the bars to go was the Lion Pub, which continued to have listings in Damron guides until 2005.

And the story of Roesener may give people a clue to the demise of this section of gay San Francisco, according to the B.A.R. story. "Many men who went to these bars died, and those left either stopped going or moved from town," wrote reporter Michael Flanagan.

The story concluded "Neighborhood bars like the Lion Pub and Club Dori were important, since many gay men lived in this part of the city and didn't always have to go to the Castro, Polk or South of Market during week nights."

For more about the house, see the listing at


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