2 LGBTQ bars won't be open for Castro Street Fair

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday September 21, 2023
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The new Badlands signs were going up Friday, September 22, as plans for the LGBTQ nightclub's reopening proceed. Photo: Christoph Burghardt
The new Badlands signs were going up Friday, September 22, as plans for the LGBTQ nightclub's reopening proceed. Photo: Christoph Burghardt

Two LGBTQ bars in the Castro neighborhood will not be open for the Castro Street Fair October 1, despite initial hopes to the contrary.

While many of the area's merchants are getting ready for an influx of fairgoers, LGBTQ watering holes Badlands and Q Bar will not, in fact, be open again in time for the event.

While Hoodline reported September 15 that Badlands would be open by next Sunday, this will not happen, its co-manager told the Bay Area Reporter when asked about their opening timeline this week.

"Unfortunately, no," stated TJ Bruce, who had told the B.A.R. on August 21 that the nightclub would likely be reopening within two months.

It appears that time frame still stands for the return of the venue on 18th Street near Castro Street.

"We are working very hard on the place, including getting our licenses current and staffing," Bruce stated September 20. "Probably a few weeks more. Getting close."

As for the nearby Q Bar on Castro Street, its co-owner Cip Cipriano had told the B.A.R. in July that it would be open in September. But Cipriano told the B.A.R. September 21 that "we won't have the finishing touches" by the fair.

When asked if he had an updated estimated date for the opening, Cipriano only responded "soon."

Castro Street Fair expands its footprint

In terms of the Castro Street Fair, Fred Lopez, vice president of the board of directors, told the B.A.R. that the footprint is "going to be closer to what folks might remember pre-pandemic," as it will include 18th Street from Diamond to Noe streets and Castro Street between 18th and 19th streets. Last year, the fairgrounds began at Market and Castro streets but ended at the intersection of Castro and 18th Street.

The 49th annual fair was started by the gay late supervisor Harvey Milk in 1974.

There will be three stages of entertainment, Lopez said. At the Castro Street intersection with Market Street will be the Castro Stage featuring DJs.

A Collingwood Stage produced by T4T, which seeks to create inclusive nightlife events for transgender and nonbinary partygoers, will be set up on 18th Street at the Collingwood intersection. The third stage, produced by the Castro Art Mart, will be on 18th Street at Noe Street.

The T4T stage will feature a drag story hour at 11:30 a.m. and Juanita MORE! at 1:15 p.m. T4T, MORE! and the Art Mart did not return requests for comment for this report as of press time.

The fair will also feature longtime participants Sundance Saloon, Cheer SF and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, which will be "roaming the fairgrounds," Lopez said.

San Francisco's Official Band, which as the B.A.R. previously reported will be performing a concert September 30 at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1111 O'Farrell Street, did not return a request for comment for this report as of press time.

Lopez stressed the importance of the event for the neighborhood; it was founded by Milk four years before he and then-mayor George Moscone were gunned down at City Hall. Before his ascension to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Milk was a camera store owner and community organizer instrumental in turning the Eureka Valley neighborhood into the re-dubbed LGBTQ mecca of Castro Village, later just the Castro. The fair was integral to that transformation.

"The Castro Street Fair has been going strong for 49 years and the fair's mission is to continue in the tradition of its founder Harvey Milk in celebrating the wonderful, colorful and diverse neighborhood that the Castro is," Lopez said. "We're really excited to welcome our neighbors, friends, and family back to the streets of the Castro. For folks who have been before, it's often one of their favorite events of the whole year, and we hope folks join us and bring their smiles and positive energy."

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who like Milk once did, represents the Castro on the Board of Supervisors, did not return a request for comment for this report as of press time.

Also hoping folks come to the fair is Terry Asten Bennett, a straight ally who is president of the Castro Merchants Association and the co-owner of Cliff's Variety.

"The Castro Street Fair is a welcome event that brings visitors to the Castro and celebrates all that is good about our community," Asten Bennett stated to the B.A.R. "The economic impact of the event can be hit or miss depending on your business. But it is always good to bring people into the neighborhood who might not otherwise come here."

Tina Aguirre, a genderqueer Latinx person who is the manager of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, told the B.A.R. that people can vote for the district's new advisory board at the fair.

"The Castro LGBTQ Cultural District is very proud of the legacy of community building and increasing visibility for LGBTQ people made possible through the Castro Street Fair," Aguirre stated. "This is especially true as it resumes its larger footprint in the neighborhood — more food, art, music, and culture to enjoy! We have a booth in the fair where people can vote for candidates for advisory board member seats and we're excited to see everybody come out and vote.

"This should be fun and a great way to celebrate all of what makes the Castro great," Aguirre added. "See you there!"

Proceeds from the fair will benefit 13 organizations this year, ranging from the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, the public elementary school in the Castro, to the 15 Association to the AIDS Support Group at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the Castro.

Greg Carey, a gay man who is the chair of the Castro Community on Patrol, a volunteer safety organization, told the B.A.R. that his group has helped out with the fair for over a decade. CCOP is one of this year's fair beneficiaries.

"We've been connecting with the fair most of the 15 years we have been around," he said. "The Castro Street Fair is one of the best community events of the year, so we've always enjoyed being part of that. We've always been a part of making sure things are safe, the donations coming in from participants, and one of the nice things about the funding that comes in from the fair is it becomes part of our non-discretionary funds that come in. ... That's a big part of why we've stayed involved other than that it's such a great event for the community."

Last year the fair raised "about $45,000" for its beneficiaries, Lopez said. A $10 or $20 donation is requested at the entrance.

In addition to the aforementioned beneficiaries, Lopez said that money raised at the fair will go to: Buen Dia Family School; Everett Middle School; Freedom Place Church; Haight Ashbury Community Nursery School; the Imperial Council of San Francisco; the Si a la Vida program at Instituto Familiar de la Raza; Queer Life Space; San Francisco Spikes; and SF CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

The October 1 Castro Street Fair runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, go to castrostreetfair.org.

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