Status meeting for project at former Nob Hill Theatre site planned

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Monday August 15, 2022
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The Nob Hill Theatre marquee with its famous signage just before it closed in 2018. Photo: Cornelius Washington
The Nob Hill Theatre marquee with its famous signage just before it closed in 2018. Photo: Cornelius Washington

Habitués of the late, great Nob Hill Theatre will have a chance to hear an update about the building's future in a public meeting this week, when developers will present their plans for the former all-male strip club.

Even before its 50-year run as a gay burlesque theater that closed in 2018, the building had been a popular jazz bar called Club Hangover. The city's planning department has designated the site at 729 Bush Street a "historic resource" eligible for the California Register of Historic Places for its association with gay culture and history.

The presentation will be broadcast via Zoom from 5 to 6 p.m., Thursday, August 18. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer feedback, which will be presented to the San Francisco Planning Department as the plans for a medical center and housing are finalized. This is the second such meeting. The first was held last year and can be viewed here. The Bay Area Reporter previously reported on that meeting, at which it was announced that the famous exterior sign would remain — minus the cheeky tagline.

"Thursday's meeting is a second opportunity for the public to learn about plans to preserve the history of the theater and to preserve some of its structure even though its use is changing," stated Eliot Dobris, a gay man who is spokesperson for the new owner, Dr. James Chen. "We also encourage people to sign up on our website to share their memories of the theater for an upcoming personal history project."

The site was purchased by Chen, an orthopedic surgeon, for $2.7 million from Larry Hoover and his husband, Gary Luce, who retired to Palm Springs. Chen, a straight ally, stated he plans to "be a good steward of the history of the site," the B.A.R. reported at the time. According to his website, Chen works with the athletic departments of several local schools and is the team physician for the San Francisco City Football Club, an amateur soccer organization.

According to a news release, Hoover and Luce had tried for many months to find a buyer who would continue to operate the theater but were unsuccessful. They have donated a large collection of items to the GLBT Historical Society's archive, including posters, performance and production ephemera, a cubicle for viewing videos, a stage set piece, a wooden sculpture of a male torso, a T-shirt, and a leather sling. These items are now part of the society's permanent historical archive and available for researchers, the release noted.

The release stated that attendees of the meeting will be able to see the new owner's plans to showcase the history of the site. Besides keeping the aforementioned sign and the auditorium, plans to acknowledge the building's history include: creating a website about the history of the theater, including personal histories from former patrons and staff; installing a historical plaque on the exterior of the building; installing an interior historical display; and utilizing a nighttime sidewalk projection to highlight the building's past uses.

The new site will maintain the facade of the original structure but will include a surgical center, with several living spaces above, in a new construction of five stories, 50 feet high. According to the presentation given last year, the proposed development includes a surgical center with two operating rooms and one minor procedure room; 3,700 square feet of medical offices; and four units of housing. These include a four-bedroom residence for Chen, two three-bedroom units, and one one-bedroom unit.

To join the meeting, click here. The release stated that a copy of the meeting will be available here.

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