SF gay sex club Eros reopens in new location

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday June 24, 2022
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Eros new space is located at 321 Turk Street in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Eros new space is located at 321 Turk Street in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. Photo: Rick Gerharter

San Francisco's last remaining gay sex club is reopening its doors in time for Pride weekend. In doing so, it is reviving a historic location in the Tenderloin once home to a bathhouse that catered to men who have sex with men.

Eros SF, the sex club for queer and trans men, will welcome patrons for a sneak peak from 6 p.m. to midnight tonight (Friday, June 24) for the first time at its new location at 132 Turk Street. According to a post on its website, the doors will close at 11 p.m.

It will also be open Saturday and Sunday during the same hours, according to the website post, and is cash only. Patrons are required to have identification and proof they are vaccinated for COVID-19.

Eros co-owner Ken Rowe did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. He had earlier told the Bay Area Reporter being able to welcome back customers during Pride Month is not only "very meaningful" but also a financial blessing.

"It would take care of our July expenses because Pride week is always huge in terms of income and attendance," said Rowe, who had formerly worked as a manager of Eros before buying the business in 2005 with two of his then co-workers.

After vacating their former space on upper Market Street in December, Eros's owners began remodeling and moving into their new home, where the gay Bulldog Baths had operated in the late 1970s and 1980s.

As the B.A.R. first reported online June 22, Rowe had been working out last-minute issues with the city's Department of Building Inspection this week in order to get the sign off that Eros could once again be in operation.

Rowe now shares co-ownership with Loren Bruton, who for many years has served as Eros' chief in-house artist, and Douglas Hingst. Over the past eight months the trio has had to deal with moving locations, overseeing renovations, and navigating the city permit process.

"It is always something," said Rowe, who also contracted COVID this month.

Eros is not a traditional gay bathhouse in that it does not have locked rooms. Such businesses are once again allowed in San Francisco, as last year the city rescinded rules that had effectively banned bathhouses since the height of the AIDS epidemic in the mid-1980s. At this time, however, Eros does not have plans to offer rooms with doors that can lock in its new space.

The business operates similar to a "day spa" with daytime and evening hours and not as a 24-hour venue, as Rowe noted in April during a hearing on further zoning changes for the city's adult sex venues. It has a capacity capped at 49 people in the new space, which has several play places for patrons and a locker room area.

Since Eros opened in 1992, the business has worked "to exceed," stressed Rowe, any requirements the city has placed on such businesses.

"We have been able to weather the crises of AIDS and STIs, the drug crisis, and we find ourselves the only gay commercial sex venue to remain in business post the COVID-imposed closures," said Rowe, referring to the closure in 2020 of SOMA sex club Blow Buddies.

As the B.A.R. has previously reported, city leaders this spring removed prohibitions that kept such establishments from opening their doors in the city's historic LGBTQ neighborhoods. They did so at the urging of gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who had led the earlier push to allow bathhouses to again operate in the city.

The latest zoning code update officially went into effect June 12. It paves the way for gay bathhouses and other adult sex venues to open in the Castro, Tenderloin, and most of South of Market without the need to receive approval from the planning commission. The oversight body does need to sign off on adult sex venues that want to open in eastern SOMA, the Mission, Dogpatch, and Bayview.

Approval would also be needed from the commission if an adult sex venue wanted to operate between 2 and 6 a.m. in those locations. Such adult businesses, however, remain banned in the Chinatown Community Business District.

Eros had been waiting on the city's Department of Building Inspection to sign off on its change-of-use request it initially made May 13 in order for it to reopen in the Turk Street storefront as an adult sex venue. A dog groomer and kennel using the name of the old gay bathhouse had operated in the space followed by an artist collective prior to Eros taking over the lease.

Due to it being closed but having to pay rent since late last year on its new location, Eros has been crowdfunding to help it cover its costs. So far it has raised nearly $6,000 out of its goal of $15,000.

"We really are short for our June rent and need the next two-thirds of our goal. We went 6 months without income and would rather not take on anymore loans," wrote Rowe in a May 15 note on the fundraising page.

He had also promised the next update would disclose the opening date for Eros.

"We are getting close! Zoning is changing. We applied for our permits. Extra furniture is being removed. We set our opening date (next update)," wrote Rowe.

According to its website, Eros is allowing anyone who had a membership with it that expired December 15 to bring in their membership card to the new location to receive a free, new membership good for six months.

"We are hoping we can survive this month," Rowe told the B.A.R. ahead of Eros's return to operation. "We need to be open in July."

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