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Nob Hill Theatre to close in August

by Sari Staver

Larry Hoover, left, and his husband, Gary Luce, will close the Nob Hill Theatre next month. Photo: Sari Staver
Larry Hoover, left, and his husband, Gary Luce, will close the Nob Hill Theatre next month. Photo: Sari Staver  

San Francisco's iconic male strip club, the Nob Hill Theatre, had record setting profits last year, but owners Larry Hoover and Gary Luce have decided it's time to retire to Palm Springs.

Hoover, 65, and Luce, 63, a married couple who've been together for the past 35 years, bought the club six years ago, tallying increased profits each year.

The theater, located at 729 Bush Street, will close Sunday, August 19, at 6 p.m., after an appreciation barbecue for customers and appearances by house performers.

"We've enjoyed owning the club and have met thousands of wonderful customers from around the world," Luce said in an interview at the theater Monday.

"But we're ready to retire," added Hoover, who was working at the front desk that day.

The theatre, a 3,272 square foot property built in 1911, was sold to a buyer "who will not be using it for an adult club," said Zephyr commercial Realtor Steven "Stu" Gerry, the listing agent. The buyer's real estate agent would not comment about the property's next use, said Gerry.

It consists of a 50-seat theater, 20 video booths (including two suites) a maze area, two private dancer rooms, a private pole dance lounge, and a one-bedroom apartment, featured in the January 1982 issue of Architectural Digest, where the owners live.

Hoover and Luce put the business on the market last October (http://www.ebar.com/news/news//250180), hoping someone would want to continue the tradition of live adult entertainment combined with a movie house and video arcade. But the property was also listed for sale, and the buyer for the building has another use in mind, said Luce.

While the property took nine months to sell, Gerry said the timeframe is typical for commercial properties in San Francisco.

"This is nothing like the residential market," said Gerry, where properties often sell in a week.

The theater is planning to go out with a bang.

"We have lots of great events" during July and August, said Luce.

Those include a circle jerk with the boys of Nob Hill Theater July 12, a circle jerk with Dante Martin and Santos July 26, and a performance by the pair July 27-28. On August 17, customers are invited to watch a film shoot by Naked Sword.

An estate sale will be held over Labor Day weekend, September 1-2, where "everything goes," said Hoover.

In addition to four-seat rows of theater seats and color photographs of guest performers that line the walls, the owners will also be selling the furnishings of their apartment.

Before the sale, the owners plan to donate some memorabilia to the GLBT Historical Society.

"They are welcome to whatever they can use," said Hoover.

Six years ago, when the previous owner decided to sell the club, Hoover and Luce were living in Palm Springs, enjoying a laid back lifestyle following long careers in the hospitality industry. The couple purchased the theater from Shan Sayles, who died in 2016.

"Shan said if we didn't buy it he was just going to close," said Hoover. So the couple, longtime customers of the theater, decided to give it a try.

"We asked for a three-month trial period" running the business, said Hoover. From day one, it was profitable, he said.

Several friends of the couple said they envied the new owners' ability "to watch porn all day long," said Hoover.

"I don't have to tell anyone who's ever owned a small business that is not how we spend the day," he added, laughing.

"Our backgrounds in hospitality prepared us for the most important factor in running a successful business - customer service," said Hoover.

When they get back to Palm Springs this fall, the men plan to get involved with volunteer work. Opening up a similar business in Palm Springs is "out of the question," said Hoover.

"Most of all we will miss our wonderful customers," said Hoover. "People come here from all over the world and tell us they haven't seen anything like this anywhere."

One of the club's former dancers, Matt Converse, a 59-year-old gay man who worked there during the 1990s, said the closure is "an end of an era."

Converse, a full-time writer whose third novel, "Obsexion," will be published by Encompass Ink in July, said working at the Nob Hill Theatre "was one of the best jobs I've ever had."

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