San Francisco LGBTQ nightclub OMG announces Pride Month closure

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 22, 2024
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Club OMG plans to shutter its doors in early June due to financial troubles and a dropoff in business caused by the COVID pandemic. Photo: Courtesy Club OMG<br>
Club OMG plans to shutter its doors in early June due to financial troubles and a dropoff in business caused by the COVID pandemic. Photo: Courtesy Club OMG

Club OMG in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood will be closing after all. Its owner, Rakesh Modi, announced via Facebook on May 22 the club's last day will be Sunday, June 9.

"All good things must come to an end," Modi posted over a picture of the nightclub's entrance.

Modi, a gay man who owns the club at 43 Sixth Street, declined a request to comment for this report, stating "I've already said what needed to be said." On May 14, the Bay Area Reporter ran a story about Modi's efforts to raise money to keep the nightclub open.

Modi started a GoFundMe to raise $100,000 for his business, which is in debt and would be at risk of closing without an infusion of cash, he told the B.A.R. When the story initially ran the GoFundMe had only raised $2,246 despite having been online for over a month. By press time May 22 that figure was $2,841.

Modi had told the B.A.R. that the nightclub catered to the Latino and transgender communities. Club OMG first opened its doors 12 years ago, he said.

"OMG has become sort of the home bar for the Latino community, especially the first-generation Latino community that don't necessarily speak English, or that's not their first language," Modi said. "They like to have community events and fundraisers, birthdays, and fundraisers for those who've passed, especially the trans community."

The venue had been struggling first because of the COVID pandemic and then because of the decline in foot traffic in downtown San Francisco.

"The Castro came back [from COVID], and some areas were not fortunate enough to come back, so we're in that situation," Modi said for the prior story. "We're hoping things planned for downtown, the revitalization, turn around, but meanwhile we have to pay off the debt. There's big credit card debt and if you know, fees, the interest rate is so high and that keeps increasing. If we get out of debt, that will help us survive."

Modi said that during the COVID lockdowns, he received a small paycheck protection program loan, which was forgiven, and took out other U.S. Small Business Administration loans to pay operating expenses. Though the bar was closed, the beer tap and dispensing system had to be kept on, leading to large Pacific Gas and Electric bills, he said.

"We had to keep paying PG&E because the machines that run the beer systems and such needed to be on so we couldn't turn off everything, to keep them alive," he said. "That takes up a lot of energy."

When COVID business restrictions tapered down in 2021, the bar did see more crowds, Modi said. But COVID helped precipitate a longer-term downturn for downtown San Francisco.

As people keep working from home, businesses continue an exodus, and national media focuses on property crime and the fentanyl epidemic. According to a report from the Institute of Governmental Studies released last year, downtown San Francisco ranked last among 62 North American cities in recovering from the COVID pandemic.

"The first few months were great," Modi said. "Everyone was ready to get back to the bars. However, things had changed. A lot of people stopped going to work downtown, a lot of retail started closing one by one, and so people who worked at those stores who went to OMG, or people that worked downtown who had a drink after work — we had a happy hour that was really good before COVID — all of that dried out. Being on Sixth Street, we felt the effects more than other places."

While the city has been working on revitalization efforts — such as Mayor London Breed's push for an outdoor entertainment zone on Front Street between California and Sacramento streets and the new monthly Chinatown night market and First Thursdays street festival in SOMA — Modi said that isn't really hitting Sixth Street south of Market Street, which is impacted by open-air drug use and sales.

When reached for comment, Carlo Gomez Arteaga, the co-executive director of the Transgender District, stated to the B.A.R., "We are so sorry to see another business go in the district. However, we are working hard to make sure we continue to build new and existing TGNC-led businesses in the district."

When asked if the district has a list of transgender and gender-nonconforming-owned businesses available, so that patrons can support them, Gomez Arteaga stated that that is "in the works."

Updated, 5/23/24: This article has been updated with comments from Rakesh Modi and the Transgender District.

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