The Stud LGBTQ bar needs to raise $500K for reopening

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday September 5, 2023
Share this Post:
San Francisco Mayor London Breed shares a joke during the news conference announcing plans to relocate The Stud LGBTQ bar to a site on Folsom Street. Photo: John Ferrannini<br>
San Francisco Mayor London Breed shares a joke during the news conference announcing plans to relocate The Stud LGBTQ bar to a site on Folsom Street. Photo: John Ferrannini

A campaign to raise half-a-million dollars to reopen The Stud has already brought in $27,000. If the sum total is raised in the next three months, a new location could open "by the end of winter," a co-owner told the Bay Area Reporter.

That new location is at 1123-1125 Folsom Street, just blocks from where the iconic nightclub was located before it was forced to shutter in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back in 2020, the Stud Collective, which since 2016 has owned what had been San Francisco's oldest continuously-operating LGBTQ bar, had claimed it would be reopening at some point. At a news conference September 5 in front of the new space, for which it has signed a lease, the co-owners got to say "told ya so."

"South of Market has been really, really impacted by the pandemic — and let's be real, we've always struggled a bit," said Honey Mahogany, a Black, queer trans member of the collective who is also a former candidate for District 6 supervisor and current chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party. "But San Francisco is where our emblem is the phoenix."

Rebirth was also the focus of Mayor London Breed's remarks. She has been trying to boost San Francisco in spite of a narrative of a city on the decline and out of control due to public safety issues and an exodus of companies from downtown.

"We don't just throw up our hands," Breed said. "We rebuild."

Breed paid tribute to The Stud's long history. It opened in 1966 and was home of Trannyshack (later Mother), the long-running drag show spearheaded by the late Heklina.

"It wasn't just about partying," Breed said. "It was about being with friends and family."

The city's First Year Free program, created by the supervisors and the mayor earlier this year, waives business registration, application, inspection, one-time fees, and initial license fees for new businesses for the first year. Breed said The Stud would be participating in this program.

Stud Collective member Nate Allbee told the B.A.R. that the $500,000 is for a complete remodel of the space — "a stage, green room, dance floor, and DJ booth," he said — as well as to buy-out the business currently there, the Trademark Sports Bar. According to its website, it closed in April to become the venue for a pop-up restaurant based on the 1980s NBC sitcom "The Golden Girls" and is now home to a Halloween-themed pop up.

Mahogany, who hosted her 2022 supervisor campaign election night party at Trademark, told the B.A.R. the business had closed. Its owners could not be reached for comment.

Allbee said the sooner fundraising is completed, the better: if they have the money within three months, The Stud could be open by the end of winter 2024, he said.

Rachel Ryan, the collective's president, said that the new venue being leased is larger and has twice as many bathrooms as its last location at 399 Ninth Street.

"Anyone who got stuck in the bathroom bottleneck will rejoice," Ryan said.

Even if The Stud wasn't all about partying, that was a pretty important part.

"I came here ready to party," Breed said, joking about the news conference's 10 a.m. start time.

"I figured it was 10 o'clock at night," she quipped. "I had my outfit ready."

D'Arcy Drollinger, owner of the nearby SOMA nightclub Oasis and the city's first and current drag laureate, as well as a longtime friend of Heklina's, also paid tribute to history. Drollinger said the announcement made for a "wonderful, exciting day."

"I cut my teeth doing drag at The Stud, so it's really important to me," Drollinger said. "I felt like we were losing a part of San Francisco and part of SOMA's history."

Among those who'd mentioned partying at the old Stud were gay political leaders state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey.

Wiener said The Stud was "personal" for him.

"I moved here in 1997 as a young gay guy trying to find community," Wiener said. "Within months, I was at The Stud. It was the first place I saw Heklina on a Tuesday night. We see the tenacity of the SOMA community and the queer community saying we're not going anywhere."

Wiener has pushed for legislation aimed at helping the nightlife community over the years, such as a bill that would've allowed some cities, such as San Francisco, to move last call back to 4 a.m. That, however, wasn't successful.

"Nightlife has always been at the center of San Francisco and our economy," Wiener said. "It wouldn't be San Francisco without queer nightlife in South of Market."

Dorsey, who no longer drinks alcohol, said he "has many fond memories" of The Stud, before joking that "to be honest a lot I didn't remember."

Allbee told the B.A.R. that while Mahogany was running against Dorsey for District 6 supervisor last year, she asked him if he'd introduce zoning legislation allowing for new nighttime entertainment on Folsom Street between Seventh and Division streets. In spite of the campaign, Dorsey acted in the district's best interest, Allbee said, and carried the legislation.

Dorsey told the B.A.R. that the legislation was introduced in October 2022 and passed in February 2023.

"I think we each recognized the importance of not letting our competing bids for supervisor get in the way of what was best for the LGBTQ+ community we have long histories in," Dorsey stated. "I'm incredibly grateful for the commitment that Honey, Nate Allbee, and all the other members of The Stud Collective have made to preserve a venue that's such an iconic part of queer history in San Francisco. I'm going to support this venue however I can, and that's not limited to the zoning legislation I sponsored."

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman — who Mahogany described at the news conference as "the original gay" because, until Dorsey's appointment as supervisor last year, he was the sole LGBTQ member of the city's Board of Supervisors — also played what he termed "a little, small role helping this process along."

Mandelman stated to the B.A.R. afterward that he meant that his office "helped with convening meetings, coordinating with planning staff and moving the process along as Dorsey was getting settled. It was all very collaborative."

Mandelman, whose district includes the Castro, said at the news conference that the collective "had promised the queer community in San Francisco that they would be back" and that the city's nightlife community "make magic happen."

Castro developments

The Castro is expecting three nightlife venue openings in coming months — Q Bar's co-owner told the B.A.R. he is eying an opening this month; the new co-manager of San Francisco Badlands told the B.A.R. he is eyeing an October opening; and a new team from the Beaux nightclub has leased the old Harvey's space out, eyeing to open next summer.

Allbee praised the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development for its help; the office stated to the B.A.R. on September 5 that it's been working with the collective for seven years.

"As the collective celebrates their new space, OEWD will continue to provide guidance around permitting and liquor licensing for The Stud," a statement read. "We look forward to connecting them to all available resources to support this endeavor, such as Mayor Breed's First Year Free program (which waives permit and license fees for new business locations) as well as Rent Stabilization Grants for Legacy Businesses through our Office of Small Business."

For more information on the campaign, or to donate, go to givebutter.com/Stud2024.

Updated, 9/5/23: This article has been updated with a comment from the Mayor's Office of Economic and workforce Development

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.

Featured Local Savings