50 years in 50 weeks: 2005: Badlands
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In 2004, LGBTQ activists began a sustained effort accusing gay Badlands owner Les Natali of discriminating against Black patrons of the Castro bar. The Bay Area Reporter extensively covered the case, including protests outside the bar, the investigation by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, and interviews with Natali and activists with And Castro For All, the group that filed the complaint with the HRC. After a 10-month investigation, in 2005 the HRC blasted Natali in a report, finding that he discriminated against both staff and patrons based on race. Later that year, Natali agreed to mediation with former mayor Willie Brown, and the state Alcoholic Beverage Control upheld Natali's liquor license. Through it all, Natali denied the charges, which he continues to do today. The executive director of the HRC at the time, Virginia Harmon, never signed off on the final report, and the complainants and Natali reached a confidential settlement through the mediation. Badlands closed in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Natali announced at the time that a new bar under new ownership would open at the 18th Street space. It is not known when that will happen. Natali owns Hamburger Mary's in the Castro, which remains closed, and the bar Toad Hall, which has reopened. To view some of the issues, click here, here, here, and here.
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