Castro's Q Bar reveals opening timeline as other businesses remain shuttered

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday July 13, 2023
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Q Bar on Castro Street is eyeing a September reopening. Photo: Scott Wazlowski
Q Bar on Castro Street is eyeing a September reopening. Photo: Scott Wazlowski

A Castro neighborhood bar that'd been closed for years will be reopening in September after it passed its final inspection.

Meanwhile, a prominent vacant eatery in the city's LGBTQ district that has also been closed for years will not reopen as projected this summer, according to the owner of the incoming business. And, representatives of a second planned Castro nightclub have stopped returning calls as another prominent shuttered restaurant space in the neighborhood has been put up for lease.

Q Bar, at 456 Castro Street, closed after a 2019 fire. It had been projected to reopen in the spring, the Bay Area Reporter reported in February.

Gay Q Bar co-owner Cip Cipriano had wanted to open the bar by Pride; however, at that point the bar hadn't had its final inspection. Cipriano said, however, that as of July 12 the inspection had been passed.

"We are thrilled to announce that we just passed our latest round of inspections and are now in the home stretch," Cipriano stated. "Keep your September calendars open. We are also pleased to welcome back many of our former bartenders that we've missed behind our bar just as much as you have."

One of those is bar manager Christian Gabriel, a gay man who told the B.A.R. that though "there were many obstacles," including the COVID pandemic, the bar team remained a family.

"It's really exciting to imagine us all back together again," Gabriel stated. "What Q Bar stood for was inclusivity for everyone, and also specifically creating a safe space for Black and Brown, Indigenous queer and trans people of color. These groups have always been underrepresented in the Castro and I'm glad to see that in our absence there is a lot more inclusivity in the neighborhood than there used to be. I'd like to think that we played a role in promoting the idea that diversity and inclusivity can also be profitable."

Indeed the B.A.R. reported July 10 that the new proprietors of the now-shuttered Harvey's space — who announced this month their intent to turn it into a nightclub whose name will be announced in the coming weeks — intend to prioritize diversity.

"We ensure an inclusive and diverse space that is safe and welcoming for all members of the community regardless of race, gender, sexuality," Joshua J. Cook, a co-owner of the new venture, 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.)

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, a gay man, 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.

Q Bar's Gabriel continued that now is "the perfect time for us to come back and be part of really revitalizing Castro Street."

"There are too many shuttered businesses and we want to show people that the Castro is a fun, safe, inclusive and very unique place to come and party and have a great time," Gabriel stated.

Cipriano said that the spring opening date had been aspirational — it was not, he said, "like Moses coming down from the mountain."

"It has to be perfect when we open," Cipriano said. "Once we realized it wasn't going to be open in time for Pride, we wanted to take our time with it — make it beautiful."

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Renovations to Fisch and Flore's interior have only just started, delaying its expected opening. Photo: John Ferrannini  

Fisch and Flore
The B.A.R. previously reported that Fisch and Flore, a seafood restaurant, was looking for a June or July opening at 2298 Market Street, the space previously occupied by the iconic Cafe Flore. However, proprietor Serhat Zorlu, a straight ally, told the B.A.R. July 11 that necessary renovations to the space have only just started.

"At the moment we have another five months, approximately, to complete the construction," Zorlu said, which puts the timetable to completion at the end of the year.

This isn't the first projected delay, either. Hoodline had reported the space at the intersection of Market and Noe streets would open at the end of 2022. In the B.A.R.'s report in March, Zorlu had teased the summer opening date as being "if everything goes well."

When recently asked the reason for the delay, Zorlu said the construction "started approximately two weeks ago." A mural of the late drag queen Heklina, who passed away unexpectedly in April while on tour in London, graces the construction walls fronting Market Street that went up during Pride Month in June.

"I think it's just a process with construction in the city," Zorlu said.

When asked what, specifically, had happened to delay the timeline, Zorlu repeated himself: "it's the process of doing construction in this city."

The B.A.R. reported in the previous story that the construction process would require a great deal of moving things around inside. The look and character of the triangular corner space, which features an outdoor garden patio and an indoor dining area and bar housed in a glass solarium, should remain the same. But a 75-year-old electric and plumbing system has to be updated, and the building needs to be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The fate of another closed Castro gay bar and dance club that was expected to reopen is less clear. The San Francisco LGBTQ nightclub Badlands, at 4121 18th Street, closed permanently in 2020 during the COVID pandemic and Natali teased that it would reopen that fall under new ownership. Natali did not return a request for comment for this report.

Natali had told the B.A.R. February 9 that Badlands could be open again in as little as eight weeks pending an agreement with TJ Bruce, a gay man who owns a number of nightclubs on the West Coast, such as Splash San Jose and Badlands Sacramento.

While Natali and Bruce had said a deal was imminent February 9, Bruce confirmed February 10 that an agreement had not been signed, and neither man returned follow-up calls the next week. Then, on February 21, Bruce stated he could not speak for Natali.

Around the same time, Badlands had to surrender its liquor license due to inactivity.

Hamburger Mary's
Natali also owns the space that used to house Hamburger Mary's at 531 Castro Street. The drag-themed restaurant opened in 2018 and closed amid the pandemic in 2020.

For lease signs recently went on the building bearing the name of Cheryl Maloney, an agent with Vanguard Properties.

Maloney had told the B.A.R. in a March report that she was interviewing prospective tenants for Hamburger Mary's. However, she has not responded to a request for comment for this report.

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