San Francisco

Iconic San Francisco Gay Bar Facing Steep Rent Hike to Be Sold to Collective, Run as Co-Op

The Stud Bar, a 50-year-old gay bar in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood threatened with closure because of a rent hike, will be sold to a collective that plans to run it as a co-op, the bar's owner said Thursday.

"I've made the choice to move forward with transferring ownership of the bar to the Stud Collective based on the diverse, multitalented, qualified group that they represent," bar owner Michael McElhaney said Thursday in a statement.

He continued: "If these awesome folks can't make it work, no one can."

McElhaney, who has owned the bar for 25 years, announced last month that he planned to sell the bar after learning of a 300 percent rent hike. He said he was heartbroken to think his bar would be relegated to a memory in San Francisco's history.

To him, closing the Stud represented "dissolving and years of community building evaporating into space."

Now, McElhaney is negotiating a unique deal, which could be signed in a matter of weeks, if all goes smoothly with the Stud Collective.

Stud Collective
A 15-member collective will run the Stud Bar, an iconic San Francisco gay bar, as a co-op. (Aug. 4, 2016)

The newly minted Stud Collective is made up of loyal customers, who are drag queens, performers, DJs, bartenders and LGBT business leaders, who have been raising money and working together to keep the nightclub from closing. The 15 members also have business skills in areas such as bar and restaurant management, public relations, accounting, historic preservation, arts funding and land development.

"We have the funding, resources and talent to make The Stud a profitable, successful business," said co-op spokesperson and drag queen VivvyAnne Forevermore. "We hope the new building owner will give us the chance to sign a market value lease and allow us to keep this historic bar a space where everyone is welcome."

Honey Mahogany also has been an active participant in the grassroots effort to save the legendary bar, whose doors will continue to remain open for everyone.

"There are certain things that are too important to let go of, and I think the Stud is one of them," he said.

Having come to the Stud for over a decade, Mahogany is looking forward to owning the club alongside other collective members.

"I think preserving our historic spaces and providing safe spaces for the community to congregate in a city that’s constantly changing is really important," Mahogany said.

The group says it has secured funding for the purchase and plans to work with Supervisor Jane Kim and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development to create a business model that will maximize profits and allow the bar and performance space to keep operating.

Kim said she was honored to help lead the efforts to keep the Stud open.

"We can't underestimate the importance of the Stud to the LGBT community," Kim said. "Not only has The Stud been the site of important artistic and political events, it currently serves as one of the anchor businesses for the future Tenderloin/SOMA LGBT Heritage District."

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