Beaux staff to take over shuttered Harvey's space

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday July 11, 2023
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A new ownership group has signed a lease for the old Harvey's bar and restaurant and an adjoining space. Photo: Scott Wazlowski
A new ownership group has signed a lease for the old Harvey's bar and restaurant and an adjoining space. Photo: Scott Wazlowski

The bar and nightclub set to open next summer in the old Harvey's restaurant space at Castro and 18th streets will undergo a complete overhaul and expansion into a vacant adjacent retail space, according to one of the new leaseholders. The new ownership group does plan to find a way to honor slain LGBTQ rights pioneer Harvey Milk in their nightlife venue.

Joshua J. Cook, a gay man who's the general manager of the Beaux nightclub at 2344 Market Street, announced last week that he, along with Beaux bar manager Alexis Lucero and assistant manager Matthew Mello, had signed a 10-year lease with two five-year extensions from building owner Paul Langley.

Beaux bartender Garrett Beighton and Realtor Marco Caravajal are providing financial backing. Cook, speaking for the group, told the Bay Area Reporter the new bar and nightclub is, therefore, not owned by the same ownership group as Beaux, the Midnight Sun, and the Edge (though Cook himself owns a stake in Beaux).

"My business partners I own Beaux with will not be participating in this venture, though ... they are fully supportive of our plans," Cook said.

Cook and the new business partners had been actively looking for a space in which to open their own LGBTQ bar since before the COVID pandemic, he said. When Harvey's abruptly closed last January, he was "immediately on the case," he said.

"We were quickly invited to do a walk-through of the space, and at that time is when we realized the Puff 'n Stuff space next door, 504 Castro [Street] — Harvey's is 500 — was empty," Cook said. "We increased the pitch to obtain both spaces."

Puff 'n Stuff, a smoke shop, has been closed since 2020.

"I think it was from the initial walk-through that we knew we wanted that space specifically because of that epic location — being in the dead center heart of Castro with the rainbow crosswalk," Cook said. "It couldn't be better."

New name soon

The name of their new business will be announced "in the next couple weeks," he said. Cook and company are not looking to resurrect the old Harvey's, or its storied predecessor, the Elephant Walk. Accordingly, the Milk memorabilia from Harvey's won't necessarily be there.

"All of that specifically belongs to Paul Langley and the owners, so we intend to give them back their collection of art," Cook said. "We will be doing, with a combination of the spaces, a complete overhaul remodel. The space that was Harvey's will be unrecognizable in the future. We do not intend to replicate in design what was there before, however, we are committed to paying homage to the business of Harvey's as well as Harvey Milk as a community icon. There will be a creative visual way to pay homage."

Their taking over the storied location was first reported in Hoodline earlier this month.

Cook said the space will function as a bar with a "substantial bar menu" during the day. At night the space will be transformed.

"Anywhere you're standing in the venue will be part of the dance floor at night," Cook said, adding the capacity should be "over 200 people, very close to Beaux."

Cook said gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman reached out to ensure his office's support. The liquor license will need to be transferred and changed to be seven-days a week till 2 a.m. The entertainment license will also need to be extended until 2 a.m.

"He's been a very valuable support system as far as exactly what steps will need to happen to open the venue in line with our vision," Cook said of the supervisor.

Mandelman told the B.A.R. that he's "relieved that a very talented and experienced group is taking on this project and look forward to seeing what they are able to do."

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), a former District 8 supervisor and a Castro resident himself, tweeted his approval.

"Amazing news for the Castro," he stated. "The Beaux team has a great track record & this is great for the neighborhood — a lunch place & bar/nightclub."

Goal of inclusivity

The B.A.R. asked Cook what he plans to do to make the space inclusive for the Black community. For decades, Black LGBTQ people have critiqued the Castro scene as being exclusive and unwelcoming toward them — a point driven home by controversies over the nearby 18th Street nightclub locations Badlands, which is now shuttered, and the Pendulum, which has since been renamed Toad Hall.

A 2004 report by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission found that Badlands was discriminating against African Americans, but the findings were never official because Virginia Harmon, the HRC executive director at the time, did not sign off on the staff report. Badlands owner Les Natali and the complainants eventually reached a confidential settlement. Natali has always denied the accusations.

Natali later opened Toad Hall on the site of what had been the Pendulum, a bar that catered to Black LGBTQs.

Cook said the ownership group of the new bar is committed to diversity.

"It's definitely part of our mission statement — Alexis, Matthew, and I — that's how we manage and program at Beaux already, even before, since Beaux's inception, but we ensure an inclusive and diverse space that is safe and welcoming for all members of the community regardless of race, gender, sexuality," Cook said, adding that The Academy SF Head Mistress Mercedez Munro, who is Black, already expressed an interest in holding an event there. (The Academy is a membership-based event space and LGBTQ social club in the Castro.)

"The Castro used to be buzzing with life, shops, and opportunities, but with so many spaces closed, it is my hope that this creates new inspiration for others to invest in the area," Munro told the B.A.R. when asked about it. "We have three younger business persons committed to revitalizing our neighborhood because they are genuinely invested in bringing life back to the neighborhood! I can't wait to get in there and help with their success!"

Cook said that "all will be showcased and all will be welcomed."

"We are looking for the most diverse and underrepresented individuals and there will be employment and a space for them at our venue," he added.

The rent for the space has been the subject of considerable speculation. The B.A.R. reported that Mandelman said owner Langley and his partner, Richard Dingman, were asking $17,000 rent a month (though this was for 500 Castro Street only).

"I don't think we will ever disclose the rent of the space," Cook said. "Working with Paul Langley and associates, they have worked with us to allow us to have accessibility to the space so it worked out. The owner has been accommodating and realistic and I think both sides have agreed that it's fair."

The Paul Langley Co. did not return a request for comment for this report.

"We're very, very excited and overwhelmed with the positive response and feedback from the community and neighbors, and we're very, very thankful and excited to work with the community and build a space for the residents of the Castro and the visitors and the entire LGBTQ community worldwide," Cook said. "In time this will gain, hopefully, international recognition of a space you have to visit in the Castro."

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